The Chronicles of Harris Burdick: 14 Amazing Authors Tell the Tales by Chris Van Allsburg
Kate DiCamillo, Louis Sachar, Jon Scieszka, Lois Lowery, Stephen King and Gregory Maguire are just some of the authors who contributed to The Chronicles of Harris Burdick. I admit I did not read all of the stories, but the ones I did find time for were really good, ranging from bizarre and silly to The-Yellow-Wallpaper-esque freaky.
The book stems from Van Allsburg’s The Mysteries of Harris Burdick, which is a picture book, as are most of Van Allsburg’s works. It contains thirteen pictures, each coupled with a cryptic sentence. One’s imagination can’t help being piqued by the curious words and peculiar pictures, and I found myself inventing whole stories in my head to go along with each. Of course, that was the intent. And of course, that was what led to the creation of Chronicles. I love books like that. Everyone’s imagination needs a good workout once in a while.
I like short stories. They seem to go quickly, and it’s easy to read a book of them over a long period of time without losing track of where the plot is going or losing a grasp on the atmosphere created by the author’s language. For these reasons also it’s easy to pick up a collection, read a few, and reserve the rest for later. I also think many authors experiment more within short story format: for example, Kate Dicamillo’s scary story is written in the form of a young girl’s letters to her brother (who is away at war), which take an alarming turn. This is quite unlike her children’s books which are not without thoughtful, provoking elements, but are never dark. Each story includes the original sentence Van Allsburg paired with the picture. It’s an interesting idea: stories to illustrate pictures, rather than the traditional picture illustrating a story.