Saturday, 31 December 2011

The Chronicles of Harris Burdick

The Chronicles of Harris Burdick
Chris Van Allsburg. Published by Thomas Allen. (October 25, 2011) 208 p.

Every year, in our House At Book Corner, we each get a brand new Christmas book. This year, my book was The Chronicles of Harris Burdick, a response to Van Allsburg's earlier work, The Mysteries of Harris Burdick.  I have wandered through the pages of The Mysteries of Harris Burdick for so many years, that although I was very excited to read my new book, I was also a little scared.
Over 25 years ago, Chris Van Allsburg wrote The Mysteries of Harris Burdick, a beautifully illustrated book that had 14 pictures with mysterious captions. In The Chronicles of Harris Burdick, 14 powerful authors wrote responses to these pictures and captions. Here they are in alphabetical order: Sherman Alexie, M.T. Anderson, Kate DiCamillo, Cory Doctorow, Jules Feiffer, Stephen King, Tabitha King, Lois Lowry, Gregory Maguire, Walter Dean Myers, Linda Sue Park, Louis Sachar, Jon Scieszka, Lemony Snicket, and Chris Van Allsburg. Without knowing anything about this book, doesn't this list of authors make you want to read it right away? Their distinctive personalities draw you into the book as you watch this trailer.

These authors clearly have a sense of fun in their approach to writing, and the trailer does much to lend to the air of mystery around the book. I began to wonder about their collaboration on this project. At which point did the authors begin to discuss the stories? I wonder if they had whispered discussions before they began to write, or did they deliberately not talk about the stories together until publication? 

There are 14 wondrous stories, and I will share a little bit from one. In Mr. Linden's Library, Mr. Walter Dean Myers has written a short story about the all consuming power of a book. As a reader, I know that I have had this experience many times. Sometimes the call of a book overwhelms my brain's logic circuits, and food, family and sleep are abandoned. This line, whispered by a young girl named Carol, evokes the struggle within us as readers, a struggle that many #nerdybookclub fans share. "Don't open the book again," she pleaded with herself. "Please."

It turns out I didn't need to worry about Harris Burdick; the magic remains intact for me. This ensemble cast of authors take the promise of the original book and carried it further. In fact, The Chronicles of Harris Burdick has just opened up a world of new possibilities, a world which you can visit if you dare. Can you hear Carol whisper?