At our last stock pick, the owner of the bookshop we use (Simply Books in Bramhall, Stockport) recommended a book to us: The Mysteries of Harris Burdick by Chris Van Alsberg. Despite being published in 1984, I had never heard of the title before. I instantly loved both the concept and the execution. Since then, by sheer coincidence, our English department has started using the book for creative writing activities.
The book introduces the reader to the mysterious tale of Harris Burdick, who, we are told, turns up at a book publisher’s office saying he has written fourteen stories with many drawings. With him, he brings one picture from each story, accompanied by a small caption, to see if the publisher likes the work. Burdick agrees to bring the stories the next morning, but never shows up and is never seen or heard from again. What were the rest of the stories about? Who is Harris Burdick, and where did he go?
The aim of this book is to present the drawings and captions in order to spark childrens’ (and, indeed, adults’ – it is difficult not to think of stories when looking at these drawings!) imagination and serve as a starting point for storytelling and creative writing. The drawings are intriguing, beautiful, eerie and, frequently, very funny.
My favourite (click to enlarge):
I discovered, whilst on my travels around the internet, that you can submit your own stories on Van Alsberg’s website. I am looking forward to using this with children and seeing the results. I may even try writing my own story!
On a slightly unrelated note, Van Alsberg has also designed some amazing library/book-related posters (I live with a poster designer, hence have a tendency to geek out about stuff like poster design and fonts. Sorry).