Book talk: Almost sixty years ago, a man named Harris Burdick left fourteen pictures with a title and a line of a story at the office of children's book publisher Peter Wenders. Peter was fascinated by the stories and asked the strange author to bring him the full versions the next day. Harris Burdick was never heard from again. Ever since these mysterious pictures came to light, people have been attempting to finish them on their own. Now, 14 authors have gathered together to tell their versions of the stories. While the original stories may never be known, these worthy versions are sure to entertain.
Rocks my socks: I remember my 6th grade teacher posting these pictures in her classroom and inviting us all to write our own stories based on them (I chose "Another Place, Another Time," which was done by Cory Doctorow in this collection and did not disappoint.) I was therefore charmed by the idea of having some of my favorite professional authors share their versions of the story. Like most collections, the stories are hit and miss, but it's mostly hits. I've read several of the stories to a 5th grade class and they loved them (especially the creepy "Just Desert" by M.T. Anderson). A surprising number (like Jules Feifer's "Uninvited Guests") have to do with death.
Rocks in my socks: Part of me is worried that now if students are given the same assignment I was in 6th grade they'll feel like there's a 'right' version of the story. It would be interesting if another collection came out with different authors to show that there can be multiple 'right' ways to tell the stories.
Every book its reader: Even though some of the authors in the collection tend to write YA fiction, these stories are fine for younger audiences. I'd give it to students grades 4+ and adults intrigued by the original Burdick pictures, or anyone looking for a good short story collection.
The Chronicles of Harris Burdick by Chris Van Allsburg et al.