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The Chronicles of Harris Burdick: Fourteen Amazing Authors Tell the Tales / With an Introduction by Lemony Snicket Hardcover – Bargain Price, October 25, 2011

4.2 out of 5 stars 101 customer reviews

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Hardcover, Bargain Price, October 25, 2011
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Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

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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Product Details

  • Age Range: 10 - 14 years
  • Grade Level: 5 - 9
  • Lexile Measure: 840L (What's this?)
  • Hardcover: 192 pages
  • Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Trade; 1 edition (October 25, 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0547548109
  • Product Dimensions: 1 x 8 x 10.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 2 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (101 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #852,202 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By Jennifer Mo VINE VOICE on September 3, 2011
Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
I came across Chris Van Allsburg's The Mysteries of Harris Burdick as a young adult and fell in love. The surreal black and white illustrations and brief lines of evocative text hint at fantastic stories that are just out of reach. Part of the fun is, of course, thinking of your own stories. But I really think that most of the appeal is in not knowing the full story -- but being able to imagine that it is splendid.

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.
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Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
Almost 30 years ago, Chris Van Allsburg (of Jumanji fame) came out with a book entitled The Chronicles of Harris Burdick. It was a collection of 14 drawings, each with a tantalizing title and an intriguing caption. And that's all- no stories attached. There was an interesting back story told about these stories, about a mysterious man named Harris Burdick who dropped the pictures off, promised more of them and the accompanying stories, and then disappeared, never to be seen again. And now, fourteen brilliant authors have collaborated to each create a story around the pictures, using their titles and the given captions as additional inspiration.

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.
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Format: Hardcover
Chris Van Allsburg has always been the Rod Serling of the children's literary world. Of that there can be no question. With no other author, not Gorey, not Snicket, not even R.L. Stine himself, will kids encounter that eerie feeling that can only be best associated with classic Twilight Zone episodes. All his picture books (even nonfiction ones like Queen of the Falls) suggest to the reader that ours is a world not far removed from the ones featured in his books. Maybe coloring books really do have lives of their own before children get to them. Perhaps strangers with amnesia really do have a special relationship with the seasons. And that board game you find one day? Fuggetaboutit. Of all his books, mind, the one that really touched this eerie quality best was The Mysteries of Harris Burdick. I can think of no other picture book that has covered such ground. Back in 1984, Burdick dared to simply imply stories rather than tell them. Its mysterious pictures, each with a single line beneath, hinted at whole worlds. Now fourteen writers for children have been tapped to interpret these stories themselves, to varying degrees of success. Whether you love all the stories, some of the stories, or just a few of the stories, this is one of the better short story collections for kids out there. Its success, however, hinges entirely on its authors' ability to understand Van Allsburg and his tone.

Fourteen authors. Thirteen stories. One introduction by Lemony Snicket.
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