Are the Harris Burdick mysteries solved?

A friend gave me this wonderful book, The Mysteries of Harris Burdick, back in the 1980s inscribed by its author, Chris Van Allsburg. Unlike Van Allsburg’s other books (Jumanji, Polar Express for example), he did not create these illustrations – or so the story goes. Where did they come from, you may wonder?

storytelling, childrens books, illustrated books, writer and illustrator Chris Van Allsburg, The Mysteries of Harris Burdick

The story continues: Mystery man Harris Burdick created 14 gorgeous, perplexing illustrations along with a title and a one-sentence introduction. He took them to a publisher and promised to return with their complete stories. But Burdick was never heard from again.

Years later, the drawings made their way to the author via Mr Peter Wenders. Van Allsburg assembled The Mysteries of Harris Burdick – inviting the reader to imagine the outcomes.

Now, Chris Van Allsburg is back with some possible conclusions in The Chronicles of Harris Burdick. Van Allsburg challenged 13 best-selling authors (+ himself) to complete Burdick’s 14 mysterious stories. Writers include Stephen King, Sherman Alexie, Cory Doctorow, and Jon Scieszka, to name a few.

Listen to Chris Van Allsburg explain the project to wnyc’s Leonard Lopate. Also, worth reading: completed stories for the Burdick mysteries by young writers. And don’t miss the animations inspired by Burdick’s artwork.

Images: © 2011 Janet Giampietro

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