A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this book.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that this is a collection of stories by 14 quite different authors, featuring the art of Chris Van Allsburg, author of The Polar Express and Jumanji. These tales, in which reality is questioned and manipulated on a regular basis, run the gamut from light and fanciful to quite dark -- sometimes in the same story. Some are overtly or subtly creepy; some involve the death of family members. Others find children committing acts of violence and other magical mayhem against adults (some of whom richly deserve it) as well as bad acts rebounding on the kids who commit them. Other tales are poignant, sweet, and filled with kindness, not to mention a satisfying sense of justice triumphing under unlikely circumstances.
What's the story?
Since 1984, the 14 titled and captioned drawings in Chris Van Allsburg's The Mysteries of Harris Burdick -- ostensibly the work of a mysterious illustrator who left them with a publisher and vanished, never to be seen again -- have been used (by teachers and others) to induce imaginative storytelling. Evocative, surreal, sometimes sinister -- an ocean liner barging into a Venetian canal, an airborne nun in a chair -- these things call for explanation. In 1993, Stephen King wrote a story about the house blasting off from its foundation; since then 13 other authors, including Van Allsburg himself, took on the remaining images. Lemony Snicket contributed the foreword to this collection, waffling mightily as to whether the stories were in fact the work of the mysterious Burdick himself.
Is it any good?
As with any anthology that draws from multiple authors from many genres, not every story in THE CHRONICLES OF HARRIS BURDICK will appeal to every reader. But the drawings and their captions are as compelling as ever, the writing, by a multi-award-winning roster, is distinguished, and your kid may discover a new favorite author or two in this collection.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about the pictures: What stories do they make you think of? Choose a picture and write your own story.
Have you read any of these authors before and liked their work? How do you like the story that one of your favorites came up with after simply looking at a particular picture?
Which of the stories did you like best? Why? Do you think you'll read more by this author?
- Author: Chris Van Allsburg
- Illustrator: Chris Van Allsburg
- Genre: Fantasy
- Topics: Magic and Fantasy, Adventures, Misfits and Underdogs
- Book type: Fiction
- Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Children's Books
- Publication date: October 25, 2011
- Publisher's recommended age(s): 10 - 17
- Number of pages: 192
- Available on: Nook, Audiobook (unabridged), Hardback, iBooks, Kindle
- Last updated: June 19, 2019
Our editors recommend
For kids who love fantasy
Themes & Topics
Browse titles with similar subject matter.
Top advice and articles
Common Sense Media's unbiased ratings are created by expert reviewers and aren't influenced by the product's creators or by any of our funders, affiliates, or partners.