The Chronicles of Harris Burdick: writers produce "official" stories to go with the much-loved "Mysteries of Harris Burdick" illustrations

Today marks the publication of The Chronicles of Harris Burdick, an anthology of short stories inspired by The Mysteries of Harris Burdick, a much-loved book of illustrations and titles for short stories that never existed. For decades, writers young and old have produced their own stories to accompany the illustrations.

Houghton Mifflin commissioned a variety of writers to write "official" young adult stories to go with these evocative images. The roster of contributors includes Sherman Alexie, M.T. Anderson, Kate DiCamillo, 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 -- and me! (I wrote a story about interdimensional travel to go with "Another Time, Another Place").

Who is Harris Burdick?

The Chronicles of Harris Burdick (Amazon)


  1. I worked in a children’s bookstore in high school, and _Harris Burdick_ was one of my favorite books there: mysterious, unanswerable, sublime. Writing stories to accompany these visual conundrums feels to me like colorizing old movies, and I have a knee-jerk reaction against it. Is explaining the story going to add or detract from the mystery? Will it be like quantum mechanics or like midichlorians? I hope the former; I fear the latter. Amazing book, though.

  2. As someone who fondly remembers a teacher using the book as a creative writing assignment for us – this is a horrible idea. “Look at this great creative thing with no answers – let’s ‘offically’ answer the questions no one wants answered!”.

    1. “Official” is definitely in scare quotes — this is meant to be as much a work of pro fan-fic as anything.

  3. It should be mentioned that Chris Van Allsburg is the person who did the illustrations in the first place.

  4. I’m pretty skeptical of this.  I love Chris Van Allsburg, and I’ve no doubt these stories will be great.  But I think it really cheapens the original — which palpably called out for user interaction.  Providing the “right” answers will really spoil that.

  5. I really don’t think these are intended to be canon, just a select group of authors giving their take on the images, the same as thousands of others have done. It’s surprising that it wasn’t done years ago. I was also introduced to Burdick as a creative writing assignment and I’m excited to hear about this.

    Even better, today is the birthday of a friend for whom I purchased the original book years ago, I was  undecided on what to get her this year so it’s too perfect that it comes out today. Hopefully she’ll be in agreement with me about whether or not it should exist!

  6. I was able to get a hold of an ARC and really enjoyed the variety of the stories.  I wish I didn’t have to give it back — now I’ll have to buy it.  Cory’s was actually one of my favorites.  Though when his character yelled out “Belgium, Belgium, Belgium” my mind went right to Douglas Adams mode and substituted the curse words accordingly.  Part of me hopes that was intentional.

  7. When I was in third grade, my class held a fiction contest where all the students were asked to write a story based on one of the illustrations in this book. The winner was announced at the end of the year assembly, where they gave out awards for perfect attendance, academic achievement, and the, err, sandbag award (The phys ed teacher, Mr. Golawati, was kind of eccentric and would yell “SANDBAG” randomly during gym class, which signaled that everyone had to drop to the floor and lie on their backs, staring at the ceiling. The person who was best at appearing instantaneously comatose throughout the year was awarded a ziplock bag full of beach sand). Anyway, I won the Harris Burdick story contest, and as a chubby and unpopular weirdo, walking up in front of my whole class to accept the award was a really satisfying moment.

  8. Unless he’s written another one, Stephen King wrote his companion story years ago; it’s available in his collection Nightmares And Dreamscapes. And I don’t have any problem with this book; if you don’t like the idea, don’t read it..

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