The Compulsive Reader: Shelf Discovery: The Chronicles of Harris Burdick

Monday, November 7, 2011

Shelf Discovery: The Chronicles of Harris Burdick

Shelf Discovery is a feature in which I highlight one book that I have found while prowling the shelves of the independent bookstore I work at it. These books aren't necessarily YA books; they're books that have discovered and find interesting or unique. I hope you do too.
Show of hands...who ever had to write a short story in Creative Writing based off of Chris Van Allsburg's The Mysteries of Harris Burdick? I definitely did when I was in seventh grade, and I thought it was the coolest assignment ever! I wrote my story on "Mr. Linden's Library" and I still have it floating around on my hard drive somewhere.

If you haven't heard of this picture book (which is tragic, and you should go get a copy), then what it is a picture book composed entirely of fourteen pictures, titles, and captions. Van Allsburg gives an introduction in which he tells us that they came from a book editor who received them from a man named Harris Burdick. He asked the ediotr to look at some samples of his work, and then promised to return with all fourteen stories and illustrations. He never did.

While I never actually wrote any other stories based on that amazing picture book, I sure thought about it, and those pictures and captions really captured my imagination and made me long to figure out the mystery behind Harris Burdick. I thought about him every time I walked by Van Allsburg's books at work (I also recommend Queen of the Falls and The Polar Express!).

So, I was beyond thrilled when I was processing an order last week and stumbled upon The Chronicles of Harris Burdick! It is a collection of the original drawings, their captions, the original introduction from Van Allsburg, AND fourteen original short stories written by some really awesome writers like Kate DiCamillo, Stephen King, Sherman Alexie, Lois Lowry, M.T. Anderson, Gregory Maguire, Walter Dean Meyers, and more! Plus, it has a lovely and hilarious introduction from Lemony Snicket! (Why, oh why couldn't HE have written a story as well?)

I was so, so, so tempted to buy it then and there, but I held myself back. (Maybe for Christmas...) Instead, I read the stories while at the store. It is going to be my next pick of the month, for sure (if I can sell the copy of How to Save a Life that's sitting in the slot, it'll go up sooner). I'll have to post a review sometime this month, but let me tell you...this book rocks. I love it, love it, love it. I will forgive Walter Dean Meyers for making his version of "Mr. Linden's Library" so different from mine, and I want to high-five Stephen King for his awesome finishing piece. These stories are so wonderful, they'll make you want to pick up a pen and create your own. I would totally be open to a Chronicles of Harris Burdick Volume II!

Did you ever write a Harris Burdick story? What was yours about?

And for you teachers out there...copy and paste no more! There is now a Harris Burdick portfolio version to use for your creative writing classes!


Jamie said...

A scream of joy just rang around my house and some furious searching on my local library website ensured... Thinking about The Polar Express just makes my heart warm and fuzzy. I can't wait to read this book! (I can't wait to see what Sherman Alexie would have written; The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian was so hilarious I was gagging and staggering my breaths during the two hours I devoured the book, I was laughing so hard. That was when my mom started worrying that books might be actually unhealthy for me...)

Anonymous said...

This looks soooo amazing! The illustrator, those writers...eek! Have no idea how you restrained yourself to wait!

Lauren said...

I've never heard of this, but it sounds like an interesting exercise for the authors out there! Wonder what happened to the guy...