The Mysteries of Harris Burdick

by Chris Van Allsburg

Hardcover, 1984



Local notes

808 Van




Houghton Mifflin (1984), Edition: 1st, 32 pages. Purchased in 2016. $18.95.


Presents a series of loosely related drawings each accompanied by a title and a caption which the reader may use to make up his or her own story.


Original language


Original publication date


Physical description

32 p.; 9.25 x 0.25 inches

Media reviews

School Library Journal; October 1984, Vol. 31, p152-152
Excerpt: "Van Allsburg's use of contrast is masterful; one squints at the light from his windows. Layered in mystery, this extraordinary book will stun imaginative readers of all ages. It takes the breath away."
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Chris Van Allsburg is known for his often unsettling tales, from the benign but dreamlike Christmas fable The Polar Express to the eerie Jumanji. But here, readers are left with only hints about the stories that surround these graphite-gray images -- it's up to readers to craft the tales these
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puzzling pictures imply. And what enchanting hints they are! Imaginative children (and their parents) can't resist the urge to script their own interpretations of what happens next.

Each dreamlike illustration is drawn with a slightly fuzzy quality that nevertheless makes magical use of light and shadow to convey a palpable sense of mystery, and period clothing and other artifacts enhance the classic style of the colorless but lush and subtly shaded drawings. This volume is a must-have for Van Allsburg's fans, for young writers, and for any child who enjoys the fantastical.
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User reviews

LibraryThing member jessicabrin
A series of unrelated, fantastical images paired with intriguing titles guide young imaginations into creating stories of their own to accompany the pictures. According to Van Allsburg's author's note, the images have a mysterious past, having been left with a book publisher by an author (Harris
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Burdick) who later vanished.
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LibraryThing member ranaemathias
Van Allsburg, Chris. (1984). The mysteries of harris burdick. New York: Houghton Mifflin Books for Children.
As the story goes, Harris Burdick brought 14 of his illustrations into a publishing house for consideration. He had a title and a caption for each one. He was asked to return the next day
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with the rest of the story to go along with each illustration, but never came back. Author Chris van Allsburg happened to be meeting with this publisher when the illustrations were shown to him. He asked if he could publish them as he felt they would inspire children to be imaginative and make up stories of their own. The black and white drawings are dramatic and very detailed. The captions and titles that accompnay the illustrations are thought provoking and imaginative. I have had great success using this book with my students as story atarters. Most of them appreciate the freedom of creativity this book inspires.
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LibraryThing member kirkonly
Harris Burdick is one of the best books that has only captions!!!! This book has an introduction that explains the reasoning behind the book and then just pictures and a title to go with the picture. This book is a great book for your imagination!!

I loved this book as a reader. I loved being about
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to use my imagination to figure out what "happened" in the picture and the story behind it. The pictures are vintage Allsburg and are essentually the book itsself. Highly recommended.

This book is a creative writing project dream!!! You could use this book every single day of the week and get a different response to every picture every time! I am going to use this book when i am a teacher to help create creativity and originality in my students writing. Perfect book for writing!!!
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LibraryThing member cmurph1
The fantastical and creepy black and white drawings will entice English Learners and reluctant readers to want to write a story of their own based on the sketch's caption.
LibraryThing member athenamilis
The Mysteries of Harris Burdick is a collection of 14 pictures with titles and captions. All of the pictures, mysterious in nature, invite the reader to think up a corresponding story. The pictures are intricately detailed and offer much to the imagination. My mind began to pump for meaning within
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the details of each black and white drawing. The titles and captions were even more mysterious. Students of all ages could be asked to write stories to go with these very creative pictures. I know I would like to use the book with my child someday to help her learn to tell a narrative. This book can be used with English language learners, reluctant readers, and highly gifted students because it connects to the imagination in all of us.
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LibraryThing member shoebacca
This book is marvelous for so many reasons. It is really a book about what it is like to be a reader of books. There are a number of illustrations, each one for a story. You know the title of the story, the illustration, and the caption for the illustration. That's all. The whole rest of the book
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is in your head: YOU are the one who has to decide how the story got from the title to the picture, and where it goes from there. This makes the book one of the longest very thin books I have ever read. In fact, since every time I read it, I make up different stories, I have yet to reach the end.
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LibraryThing member julie_savage
This is such an intriguing book. It really captures your attention. The author's note grabs you and makes you wonder if it is a fiction or non-fiction book. The illustrations are full of details that not everyone would be able to catch on a first glance. Everytime I look at a picture, I notice
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another detail.
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LibraryThing member cvyork
Was this produced before Jumanji? If so, I beleive I may have found a source of motivation for it! Amazing pictures and thought provoking captions! This would be great to read in front of a class and hear what the children think!
LibraryThing member isaacfellows
These pictures are classics. The quality of their mysteriousness is not uniform, but the best among them make the whole package very fascinating. The well-documented activity of writing stories based on the fragments is good one and could work as a library as well as a school activity.
LibraryThing member kdemott
A different kind of picture book. It would be a great writing prompt for the classroom. Excellent illustrations, as usual.
LibraryThing member HeatherSwinford
This book is great for children to be able to imagine their own stories from the illustrations. There are minimal words listed in this book, so it allows for children to use their own skills as writers and create their own.
LibraryThing member annashapiro
Reading the introduction, we learn that Harris Burdick walked into a children's book publishing office with 14 stories that went along with 14 illustrations he had drawn. Leaving the illustrations in the publishing office, Burdick was never heard from again, and the stories that go with each
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drawing remain a mystery. The only thing we have left is a title and caption for each picture. In one drawing, an overwrought man holds a chair over his head and is about to hit a lump under the carpet. The title and caption are: ''Under the Rug': Two weeks passed and it happened again.' In another, a boy and a girl skip stones on the sparkly surface of water. The title and caption are: ''A Strange Day in July': He threw with all his might, but the third stone came skipping back.' Some of the drawings are scary, some are mysterious, some are dreamlike, but all are evocative and full of wonder and imagination.
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LibraryThing member susan.suihkonen
This book is full of intriguing pictures that are explained only through a single caption. Not only are the pictures mysterious, but so are their origins.
LibraryThing member mdgilmor
This picture book consists of a series of unrelated pictures, each with its on title and caption, nothing more, nothing less. This is a great book to get the reader's creative juices flowing. The reader has the room and prompt to come up with his or her own stories for each picture. The book
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features a very impressive background on how the pictures came to be part of the picture book. A great read!
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LibraryThing member alliecipa
This book is a collection of black-and-white pictures and titles left at a children's book publisher by the mysterious character Harris Burdick. Burdick was never seen or heard from again, which adds to the suspense of the book. These pictures are great for children to look at and create their own
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stories to go along!
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LibraryThing member EllieGiles
An awesome book inspired by a set of paintings. Each one contains a short sentence or couple of sentsences that lead the reader to wonder what happened in each of the pictures. These are great stories to allow children to free write about "what if?".
LibraryThing member mdemock
An incredibly unique collection of thought provoking pictures. This book is an excellent resource of story starters to inspire children in their literacy instruction.
LibraryThing member etwinney
A collection of thought provoking pictures with a short sentence that will inspire the reader to think about each picture. Each page is a great story started that will allow children to free write about "What if?".
LibraryThing member derbygirl
(easy, picture, young reader fiction with non fiction elements) What an interesting book! On the first page is an introduction explaining who Harris Burdick is and the origin of the illustrations you are about to look at. In a nutshell, (you'll have to check it out for yourself, it's just too
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interesting), Mr. Burdick left fourteen illustrations with a children's publisher. These fourteen illustrations only had a title and a caption. Mr. Burdick told the publisher that he had fourteen stories to go with the illustrations and that if the publisher liked the illustrations he would bring the accompanying stories the next day. Of course the publisher wanted to see the stories right away. Well, Mr. Burdick was never seen or heard from ever again. As a matter of fact, there has never been any information found about him. So all we have left are these mysterious illustrations and our imagination. This book explores all fourteen of the illustrations. Also in the introduction we are told that the publisher's family and friends that saw the illustrations took the liberty of writing their own stories to go with the pictures. Now, that would be an interesting book too...hmmm....! A fun activity would be to invite your readers/ listeners to pick one of the illustrations and write a story about it.
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LibraryThing member rileykoch
Strange book -- fascinating text and illustrationg.
LibraryThing member nhwong
This book is a collection of 14 images with only a title and a small description. Each of these images were of interesting/peculiar events. Best for older students. Very good prompt/springboard for creative writing.
LibraryThing member mhinderlie
Summary: this book is a collection of illustrations from a man named Harris Burdick. He never returned to explain or share the stories that went along with the drawings, because of this many stories have been written based on his illustrations. This book is to inspire more stories from his
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Genre: picture book
This book is a collection of pictures with titles and captions, each about a different story but none with the complete story.
media: charcoal, pencil
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LibraryThing member ReplayGuy
Vivid images with a back story that you can use to help start imagination flowing. The pictures are part mystery, part scary. Harris Burdick left the nearly wordless pictures without telling the stories, so you can make them up. The drawings are excellent and the black and white adds another
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creative dimension as you have to color them in your mind.
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LibraryThing member SADAMS30
The illustrations are mesmerizing, especially to kids. It triggers their imagination and they are able to come up with amazing stories to complement the pictures. I used the portfolio edition with 7th graders as a jumping off point for mystery writing. The stories that they came up with were
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completely varied and the students loved this unit. The focus that they had throughout the unit was something I'd never seen before in middle school writing. I loved it and so did the kids.
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LibraryThing member lanebrown
There was a man named Harris Burdick who took this set of pictures (with a title and caption to go along with each one) to a children’s book publisher. The publisher loved the pictures and asked for the story that goes with them. Burdick said he would return the following day with the story. He
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was never heard from again. The publisher tried to investigate to find him but he never could. Chris Van Allsburg met with this publisher and looked through the pictures. He remarked that it was hard to look at the pictures without creating a story. In response, the publisher brought him a box of stories that his children and their friends had written based on these pictures.

I would love to give my students the same assignment – have the look through the book and write a story to go with the pictures. The illustrations are beautiful and without words to accompany them, you realize their importance even more.
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(258 ratings; 4.5)
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