Wednesday, October 26, 2011

The Chronicles of Harris Burdick

As I write this post, I am trying to contain my excitement!!!  Lots of new things are happening with Harris Burdick and I can't wait to share them with you!!  However, before I share the most recent news, let's start from the beginning.  For those of you who are not familiar with Harris Burdick, please get your hands on a copy of Chris Van Alsburg's, The Mysteries of Harris Burdick.  Harris Burdick is a character who has written a series of stories that go along with various drawings.  He brings them to a publisher, Mr. Wenders, who plans to paruse through the items to determine whether he will publish them.  Ironically, Burdick is never seen or heard from again and the stories that go along with the drawings are never found.  Page through Burdick's vivid, eerie pictures which include a title and just one caption.  For example, turn to the picture of a man about to hit an identifiable object under the rug titled, "Under the Rug."  I promise will get your imagination churning!  What is that under the rug?  What does Harris Burdick mean by the caption, "Two weeks passed and it happened again?"    What are we to do?  Yep.  You guessed correctly.  It's up to you, as writers to complete these stories!  My second graders couldn't get enough of The Mysteries of Harris Burdick (Portfolio Edition, a poster sized version of the book.  Right around Halloween, I'd post a bunch of the drawings around the room and let the children create their own stories using the captions as their opening sentences.  One of our favorites was the glowing pumpkin...perfect for the season!  I can't think of another book that inspires a writer  more.  As you look through the drawings, it's as if you MUST finish the story!  This leads me to my most recent Van Alsburg finding.  On Tuesday, a new book, The Chronicles of Harris Burdick: Fourteen Amazing Authors Tell the Tales / With an Introduction by Lemony Snicket was released.  Van Alsburg has inspired a collection of short stories based on Burdick's drawings, including works by authors Stephen King, Lois Lowry, Louis Sachar and Lemony Snicket, to name a few.  Each famous author shares their own interpretation of the drawings.  This is a lovely companion to the portfolio and book!  What young writer wouldn't want to hear about how an established author interpreted the same drawing.  Were their thoughts similar?  Completely different?  I'm really excited to read through these short stories.  Just do me a favor...don't ruin the energy and inspiration of Harris Burdick.  Do NOT share The Chronicles of Harris Burdick: Fourteen Amazing Authors Tell the Tales / With an Introduction by Lemony Snicket until the masterpieces in your classroom are complete!  Have fun!

Lesson Plans/Activities:
1.  Purchase the book or portfolio and get inspired!  Encourage children to use the captions as the first line of their story.  Use the captions as the last line of the story.  Display the stories with the drawings.
2.  Compare your student's stories with the Chronicles.  What aspects were similar? Different?
3.  Visit  and submit your student's stories.    Apparently, the New Yorker started a writing contest! I'm not sure if it is still going, but they are still encouraging you to submit your stories! Who knows?  You may have a winner!  Also, get tips from author Chris Van Alsburg himself.

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