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on January 24, 2012
"Who is Harris Burdick?" may not be a relevant question once you flip through the pages of this latest offering from Chris Van Allsburg. It is a gem of a book to have on anyone's bookshelf. Ideally, this book would sit next to the original book of 14 captioned illustrations released under the title, The Mysteries of Harris Burdick, and published in 1984. Many young writers were inspired by enlightened English teachers who presented these drawings in class, and then asked their students to "come up with a story." Here is an example of one caption:

UNDER THE RUG -- Two weeks passed and it happened again.

The same 14 illustrations from Mysteries appear in Chronicles, now accompanied with writing by esteemed authors such as Gregory Maguire (Wicked: The Life and Times of the Wicked Witch of the West), Jules Feiffer (illustrated The Phantom Tollbooth), Sherman Alexie (The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian), Jon Scieszka (The Stinky Cheese Man: And Other Fairly Stupid Tales), and the two Kings -- Stephen and Tabitha are among the 14. There is even a sly appearance by Lemony Snicket.

Chris Van Allsburg is said to be intrigued by the question, "What if?" That seems to be the spirit of this book and its predecessor.

Critics of this book say that it should have been left as Mysteries and that this Chronicles volume should not have been published at all. However, why not have both and be able to see how published authors tackled the challenge? Indeed, some works are not as good as others, but that can be useful to see. The stories that do work, work very well. "A Strange Day in July" by Alexie, and "Missing in Venice" by Maguire come to mind.
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on June 6, 2012
As a kid I LOVED 'The Mysteries of Harris Burdick'. I was first introduced to it in the '80s in elementary school by a teacher who had us pick a picture and write our own tale for the picture we chose. I wrote so many stories for these pictures, and even made my own book with new pictures and one-liners. So when I stumbled across this book on Amazon a few weeks ago, I was THRILLED to have the opportunity to read other peoples' stories, and to see how their versions stacked up against my own.

For the most part I was impressed. There were about 3 stories that I thought were kind of lame, and unfortunately one of them was for one of my favourite pictures (The majority of that story was great, but in the end it didn't describe what was happening in the picture as the rest had). On the other hand, one of the stories for a picture I was never fond of as a child made me look at it in a whole new way, and it ended up being my favourite in the book! I guess it works both ways :)

All that being said, if you loved the original (at any point in your life), I absolutely recommend curling up with The Chronicles and getting sucked in all over again.
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on April 26, 2015
Fabulous stories by fabulous authors!
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