Those of us who teach Reading/Literature and Writing/Grammar at my school were introduced to the illustrations of Harris Burdick (The Mysteries of Harris Burdick) three years ago at a Smekens conference and we just fell in love with the collection. We have used them as examples, as journal prompts, story starters, etc. However, over this past weekend, I was DELIGHTED to discover that Chris Van Allsburg has actually pulled together stories for these beautiful pictures. Fourteen well-known authors have lent their imaginations and talent to make up the collection entitled The Chronicles of Harris Burdick.
So far, my favorite story is “Under the Rug” by Joe Scieszka, a timeless lesson of the spiral downward that can result from just “sweeping things under the rug” rather than dealing with them. Let us just say that it involves a rather ravenous dustbunny. At least, it starts that way.
Another favorite is “Missing In Venice”, a story written for the illustration that graces the cover of this beautiful volume, written by none other than Gregory Maguire, who just completed his Oz Quartet with Out of Oz, the story of the now-immortal Wicked Witch of the West, Elphaba’s, granddaughter. This story tells of a young boy and his journey through the mists and canals of Venice to something akin to acceptance. Hint: it involves gingerbread and a silver ring.
I have only finished three of these gorgeous stories thus far but I am looking forward to continually falling into Harris Burdick’s illustrations, just as Mary Poppins hopped the children in chalk sidewalk drawings. Few things could be more enjoyable. And what better, they are re-readable, so I — and you — may enjoy them again and again.