The Mysteries of Harris Burdick

Common Sense Media says

Kids will be eager to complete unfinished tales.





What parents need to know

Positive messages
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A man threatens to strike a hidden form that may be a living thing. Some drawings have an air of vague menace. People--often children--are depicted as participants in strange occurrences.

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Drinking, drugs, & smoking
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Parents Need to Know

Parents need to know that only a mysterious title and an ambiguous caption accompany each mesmerizing illustration, leaving readers to complete the unfinished tales.

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Kids say

What's the story?

Floating bubbles of light hover over a sleeping boy. A strange lump reappears under the carpet in a man's room. A skipping stone acts like a boomerang. These are just the first few of fourteen exceedingly odd images conjured by children's illustrator Chris Van Allsburg. Children--and adults--can exercise their fancy by wrapping their own story around each one.

Is it any good?


Chris Van Allsburg is known for his often unsettling tales, from the benign but dreamlike Christmas fable The Polar Express to the eerie Jumanji. But here, readers are left with only hints about the stories that surround these graphite-gray images -- it's up to readers to craft the tales these puzzling pictures imply. And what enchanting hints they are! Imaginative children (and their parents) can't resist the urge to script their own interpretations of what happens next.

Each dreamlike illustration is drawn with a slightly fuzzy quality that nevertheless makes magical use of light and shadow to convey a palpable sense of mystery, and period clothing and other artifacts enhance the classic style of the colorless but lush and subtly shaded drawings. This volume is a must-have for Van Allsburg's fans, for young writers, and for any child who enjoys the fantastical.

Families can talk about...

  • Families can talk about the seeds of stories. Think of a few possible stories for one of the pictures, exploring different genres.

Book details

Author:Chris Van Allsburg
Illustrator:Chris Van Allsburg
Book type:Fiction
Publisher:Houghton Mifflin Children's Books
Publication date:January 1, 1984
Number of pages:29
Publisher's recommended age(s):9 - 12

This review of The Mysteries of Harris Burdick was written by

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  • ON: Content is age-appropriate for kids this age.
  • PAUSE: Know your child; some content may not be right for some kids.
  • OFF: Not age-appropriate for kids this age.
  • NOT FOR KIDS: Not appropriate for kids of any age.

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Learning ratings

  • Best: Really engaging; great learning approach.
  • Very Good: Engaging; good learning approach.
  • Good: Pretty engaging; good learning approach.
  • Fair: Somewhat engaging; OK learning approach.
  • Not for Learning: Not recommended for learning.
  • Not for Kids: Not age-appropriate for kids; not recommended for learning.

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Kid, 11 years old December 7, 2008

harris burdick review

harris burdick came to a publisher one morning only bringing 14 pictures from every book he had wrote the publisher( peters wenders) told him to come back with the pictures and he agreed he will p ublish them but the next morning he never came so the publisher wanted to fiind out more sbout him but he was just a mystery


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