Friday, October 18, 2013

PPBF: The Mysteries of Harris Burdick

Title: The Mysteries of Harris Burdick
Author/Illustrator: Chris Van Allsburg
Publisher/DateHMH Books for Young Readers /1984
Genre/Audience: Fiction/Ages 4+
Themes: mystery, imagination, story starters (writing)

Opening: "I first saw the drawings in this book a year ago, in the home of a man named Peter Wenders."


In his introduction, Chris Van Allsburg gives the reader some background on Harris Burdick, a man who brought 14 drawings to a children's book publisher and then disappeared. The drawings are mysterious, each with a title and caption, all with a fantastic, dramatic, otherworldly quality. 

Why I Love This Book

There is no children's book that is more alluring. It immediately taps into the reader's imagination and invites storytelling. I loved using this book in my third grade classroom. The Portfolio Edition (1995) with large, loose-leaf posters of each drawing, is perfect for teachers. Kids can tell the stories they create from an early age, begin to write them down in elementary school, and continue to use the drawings as inspiration in writing classes through high school. (Check out the collaborative stories link below!) Even well-known authors are fascinated enough to try their hand at the stories. I can't wait to read The Chronicles of Harris Burdick: 14 Amazing Authors Tell the Tales (2011), which I recently discovered at the library, and which inspired this post.


Choose an intriguing drawing from the collection and write a story or tell a story with a friend.

Who is Harris Burdick? Website with resources and stories

Lesson Plan (grades 5-9): Using Illustrations to Guide Writing

Collaborative stories written by students from around the world

Craving more Perfect Picture Books? Author Susanna Leonard Hill compiles weekly book reviews from bloggers at Visit Fridays or click the Perfect Picture Books tab at her website for a subject listing.


  1. Wow! This looks really cool, Laura! I'd love to see all the paintings and see what kind of ideas they inspire in me! :) Thanks so much for sharing this one!

  2. This looks like a great book to get the creative juices flowing. I can imagine kids pulling out their journals and making up a story about the pictures.

  3. Very intriguing! Sounds like a wonderful "make up your own story" type book. Thanks for telling us about it!

  4. You've made good use of this book. We don't see many reviews of Chris's work, but they are all worth taking note. I hope you'll review "Chronicles" too sometime. I haven't had a chance to read it.

  5. I love Mr Van Allsburg and have heard of this one but never seen it. I think I must go find it now. Thanks for sharing!