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The Chronicles of Harris Burdick: Fourteen Amazing Authors Tell the Tales / With an Introduction by Lemony Snicket Hardcover – October 25, 2011
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Amazon Best Books of the Month, November 2011: Sublimely curious, strangely serious, terrifyingly hilarious--the 14 new short stories by authors Stephen King, Lois Lowry, Walter Dean Myers and other bestselling storytellers in Chris Van Allsburg’s The Chronicles of Harris Burdick are a perfect match for the unexplained drawings that inspired them: the beloved, eerie black and white images, accompanied only by a title and caption, in The Mysteries of Harris Burdick, originally published by Allsburg in 1984. What could have been a basic writing exercise in the hands of these professionals unfolds as thoughtful, intriguing tales only masters could tell. With an introduction by Lemony Snicket, the stories close the loop on the mysterious drawings, but if they aren’t up to readers’ satisfaction, it can merely serve as another reason to gaze upon Allsburg’s layered pictures once again, 27 years later. --Alexandra Foster
“Engaging, with strokes of brilliance”—Kirkus
“This star-studded exercise in creative writing tests the wits of favorite authors and shows readers how even the big shots hone their craft.”—Publishers Weekly, starred review
“The stories embrace a range of styles and subjects, but, like their enigmatic and mysterious inspirations, each touches on the strange, the odd, and the fantastic.”—The Horn Book Magazine
“While the stories are distinct—by turns funny, sinister, and touching—they have much in common, sharing an arch tone, a curious metaphysicality, and some familiar folk-tale tropes, and the authors’ commitment to the original conceit gives the volume additional cohesion.”—Booklist
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Telling stories that live up to imaginary ones is a daunting task, and perhaps inevitably, The Chronicles of Harris Burdick falls short. It's not for want of talent: the line-up of 14 all-star authors includes Gregory Maguire, Kate DiCamillo, Lois Lowry, Stephen King, Louis Sachar, and Jon Scieszka. Lemony Snicket, still in his Series of Unfortunate Events persona, introduces the project and the stories. But simply by adding concrete details, beginnings, and ends, the authors lose some of that sense of wonder so evident in Mysteries.
The 14 stories are perfectly readable, if a little uneven. My favorites include Jon Scieszka's Under the Rug, which reads like his fractured fairy tale picture books: terse, a little macabre, and quite funny. I also enjoyed Jules Feiffer's Uninvited Guests, with its deranged main character and existential twist, although I can't imagine that younger readers would get much out of this one. Chris Van Allsburg's own contribution, Oscar and Alphonse, strikes the perfect balance between whimsy and bittersweetness.
Some of the stories are a bit peculiar. Sherman Alexie is a hugely talented writer who spins a memorable tale in A Strange Day in July, but it doesn't match the sunny innocence of the illustration it accompanies.Read more ›
The contributing authors are all-stars: Sherman Alexie, Kate DiCamillo, Stephen King, Lois Lowry, Gregory Maguire and more. The introduction (quite witty) is by Lemony Snicket. Chris Van Allsburg contributes a story, too. And the inspiration for the stories? Excellent. The pictures are beautifully evocative, and when you combine them with the titles and the captions, it's fabulous fun to think of all the stories that might accompany them, what the characters are doing and what happens at that exact moment.
That, perhaps, is why this collection falls a little flat. Some of the stories, like Chris Van Allsburg's own, Kate DiCamillo's and Louis Sachar's, are lovely. Some have that enticingly creepy overtone that Chris Van Allsburg is so good at- especially Sherman Alexie's. Some just are... well, not nearly as interesting as the stories that I imagined were waiting to be told. And it's hard, really, to see a picture, read the caption and then center your imagination around a title, and then be disappointed in the story that is actually presented to you.Read more ›
Fourteen authors. Thirteen stories. One introduction by Lemony Snicket.Read more ›
Most Recent Customer Reviews
I really enjoy "The Mysteries of Harris Burdick" but am torn as to whether the Chronicles is for children. Some of the stories are rather frightening for the younger set! Read morePublished 1 month ago by Teresa McCarthy
A gift my daughter, an inspiring first grade teacher, thoroughly enjoyed.Published 2 months ago by Don B.
This book is incredible! My students loved this book as a treat, after reading The Stranger in their textbook.Published 2 months ago by UrbanMama89
While Chris Van Allsburg's illustrations were beautiful and mysterious, the stories written by famous authors to go along with them were not able to live up to my own personal... Read morePublished 5 months ago by Chelsea Gamboa
I have myself written to all 14 of the Burdick pictures/prompts, and enjoyed seeing how others were inspired, in most cases vastly differently from what I saw -- exactly what Van... Read morePublished 7 months ago by ed pacht
These stories range from bizarre to interesting to heartwarming. A fun book.Published 8 months ago by P.Ch.