The Chronicles of Harris Burdick: Fourteen Amazing Authors Tell the Tales

Chris Van Allsburg, Author, Lemony Snicket, Introduction by
Chris Van Allsburg et al. Houghton Mifflin, $24.99 (208p) ISBN 978-0-547-54810-4
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Van Allsburg's The Mysteries of Harris Burdick, published in 1984, paired foreboding sentences with cryptic, highly detailed charcoal-pencil illustrations. With mostly stimulating, sometimes conventional results, seasoned authors (and Van Allsburg himself) play the game children have for decades, incorporating the sentences and visual cues into new stories (and one old one, Stephen King's "The House on Maple Street") that expand on the original's enigmas. The liveliest entries pick up on Van Allsburg's haunting ambiguity: Jon Scieszka ends with a cliffhanger, Gregory Maguire weaves a complex tale of magic, and M.T. Anderson concocts a chilling Halloween offering. For a lakeside picture of two children, Sherman Alexie writes a sinister narrative about exasperating twins who pretend to have a third sibling, until their creepy prank backfires. In quieter examples, Walter Dean Myers describes an dying man's library and a girl's love of books, while Kate DiCamillo finds a wartime story of longing in an image of wallpaper missing one bird ("It all began when someone left the window open"). This star-studded exercise in creative writing tests the wits of favorite authors and shows readers how even the big shots hone their craft. Ages 10–14. (Oct.)
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