Art & Story by Chris Van Allsburg, with an Intro by Lemony Snicket
Houghton Mifflin, 2011; Illustrations-1984; Stephen King’s The House on Maple Street-1993.
Hardcover, 195 pages + Intro & Author bios.
the 14 are: Sherman Alexie, A Strange Day in July; M.T. Anderson, Just Desert; Kate DiCamillo, The Third-Floor Bedroom; Cory Doctorow, Another Place, Another Time; Jules Feiffer, Uninvited Guests; Stephen King, The House on Maple Street; Tabitha King, Archie Smith, Boy Wonder; Lois Lowry, The Seven Chairs; Gregory Maguire, Missing in Venice; Walter Dean Myers, Mr. Linden’s Library; Linda Sue Park, The Harp; Louis Sachar, Captain Tory; Jon Scieszka, Under the Rug; and Chris Van Allsburg himself, Oscar and Alphonse.
For more than twenty-five years, the illustrations in the extraordinary Mysteries of Harris Burdick by Chris Van Allsburg have intrigued and entertained readers of all ages. Thousands of children have been inspired to weave their own stories to go with these enigmatic pictures. Now we’ve asked some of our very best storytellers to spin the tales. Enter The Chronicles of Harris Burdick to gather this incredible compendium of stories: mysterious, funny, creepy, poignant, these are tales you wont soon forget. ~Publisher’s Comments.
The House on Maple Street : ‘It was a perfect lift-off.’
Who has not had Chris Van Allsburg’s Mysteries of Harris Burdick used as a writing prompt—besides Sean? N and I were kicking around the idea of checking the book out from the library when I heard The Chronicles of Harris Burdick was coming out. I told Natalya she still should write her own inspired piece, but there was no having The Chronicles in the house without her getting a hold of it. It features some of her favorite authors.
(11 for a while now) Natalya’s response the experience? She handed the book over with a modest list of her favorites. The story by Sherman Alexie was number one, and I believe Stephen King’s was a good second (and I agree). She liked most of them, but there were a few that she couldn’t get into. After reading The Chronicles, I could see why those few failed to interest her, or were too confusing. Needless to say, I was just happy she honed in on two new-to-her authors who such phenomenal writers.
The Seven Chairs: ‘The fifth one ended up in France.’
It is a successful anthology that can host such credible diversity, and The Chronicles of Harris Burdick is one such collection. There is the “mysterious, funny, creepy, [and] poignant.” There are the sports themed, the fantastical, the science fictional, the psychological, and the classically flavored morals & tales. There are some for the Readerly, but most all are for every reader. I liked the stories that could be read on multiple levels, but not necessarily more than the ones that drew me in rather singularly and had me scrambling for the ending. DiCamillo’s channeled Kate Chopin for me, and Lowry had me thinking about Madeleine L’Engle’s Walking on Water, the magic in childhood and a person’s potential. Everyone should find three or four stories to savor, if not more. All should honor The Chronicles of Harris Burdick’s placement of Stephen King’s story as the closer—for that lingering satisfaction in a book well-made.
Oscar and Alphonse : ‘she knew it was time to send them back. The caterpillars softly wiggled in her hand, spelling out “goodbye.”‘
It was interesting to see what the author’s took from the Illustration and how they used the caption in the story. Some were more literal with the elements, like Tabitha King’s contribution, but why the bat and no mention of the yo-yo? Another uses the image a bit more abstractly, like with Cory Doctorow’s. Many begin in one place and you can’t help but wonder how the Illustration comes in; I had to exercise a great deal of patience with Gregory Maguire’s piece. Others create the kind of suspense the Illustrations do, implications lingering, like Alexie’s, MT Anderson’s, and Allsburg’s.
I admit to being worried that The Chronicles of Harris Burdick would ruin The Mysteries of Harris Burdick for me. But it didn’t. I enjoyed some of the approaches, the imaginative takes on the Illustrations and captions. A few Illustrations seem impossible, but the story was good. The Chronicles of Harris Burdick is fun and intriguing in a new way. If anything, may this compendium present a new kind of challenge, to perhaps out-imagine and out-write some of these amazing writers collected here.
*I find it amusing The Chronicles book ends with husband and wife.
do check out NY Times‘ Review by Leonard S. Marcus, “Choose Your Own Adventure.”
the video below is essentially the “Introduction” in the book, though one should definitely read the Intro in the book.