The Chronicles of Harris Burdick by Chris Van Allsburg

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The Chronicles of Harris Burdick by Chris Van Allsburg

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Buy The Chronicles of Harris Burdick by Chris Van Allsburg at Amazon.co.uk or Amazon.com

Category: Confident Readers
Rating: 4.5/5
Reviewer: John Lloyd
Reviewed by John Lloyd
Summary: A delightful, and delightful-looking collection of intriguing fantasies.
Buy? Yes Borrow? Yes
Pages: 236 Date: April 2012
Publisher: Andersen
External links: Author's website
ISBN: 9781849394086

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Meet Harris Burdick - not that many people ever did. He was a fictional entity, produced by Chris Van Allsburg, and in the 1980s his output was a dozen odd but beautiful pictures with, for each, a single caption and the name of the story they were designed to illustrate. Burdick, allegedly, disappeared - but his pictures stuck around to inspire a Stephen King short story. Now we get a lavish, yummy hardback of all the pictures, and now, through the agency of a great editor, they all have their appropriate short story.

I'm not sure that I, as a young reader, would have worked out all the tricksy faux-biography of Burdick. Lemony Snicket turns up, and between his new and the original old introductions, you're teased with Burdick's story as well as all the regular ones. Similarly, I might not have 'got' all of Mrs Stephen King's artful visitation tale. Nor the metaphysical time-bending piece that turns up later, nor some of the post-modern, self-referential beats of another. But boy, there are still treasures in here.

The second story is a case in point - great fun, with generational differences and a child of untold gender causing trouble in an excellent way. The third surpasses that, with a wildly imaginative riff on the picture and caption. I'm not sure why the cover picture, adorning its piece, is so dim and dark inside, but the writing is a bright and vivid tale of mystery in Venice. Add on a fancy fable that might have it wrong about time bubbles and so on, but is a cute romantic story of magic, another that embodies the whole book's ethos of the powers of flights of fancy, and that original Stephen King tale, and you have a rounded collection of great quality.

But I have to mention M T Anderson, for producing my absolute favourite, which ranks as one of the most memorable short works I have ever read, and is so remarkable it ranks as reason to buy this volume itself. Where this volume shines is in its editing - people one may have glimpsed a book from before, plus some huge names like King, and Louis Sachar, all on good or better form. The anthology is quite a masterful one - and added kudos for an epistolatory tale, from a reader who loves unusual formats for his fiction.

And to repeat, it's all been treated superbly well by the publishers. It fitted easily into the category of books that you itch to read from its look and intrigue value alone. I did raise some eyebrows - some of the content, to repeat, was a bit mature, not in content but approach; it seems the best way to make a hero(ine) empathetic is to kill off their parent, and the worst horror in the world would appear from this to be remedial summer school. But far more broad beaming smiles were raised, and this in the end is a delight. Burdick will definitely be with us from here on...

The Mysteries of Harris Burdick by Chris Van Allsburg has the original pictures and captions - perhaps the further reading we'd recommend is what those inspire in (or for) your own children? For more brilliantly absorbing fantasy in the meantime we loved The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland in a Ship of Her Own Making by Catherynne Valente, which is even more of a wallow than the title suggests.

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Buy The Chronicles of Harris Burdick by Chris Van Allsburg at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy The Chronicles of Harris Burdick by Chris Van Allsburg at Amazon.co.uk Amazon currently charges £2.99 for standard delivery for orders under £20, over which delivery is free.
Buy The Chronicles of Harris Burdick by Chris Van Allsburg at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy The Chronicles of Harris Burdick by Chris Van Allsburg at Amazon.com.

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