Sunday, October 30, 2011

Are Harris Burdick's chronicles too mysterious?

It's a new book by fourteen "alleged authors" of tales behind drawings in a style very similar to Chris Van Allsburg's, originally published as a picture book in 1984, but apparently created and captioned by a mysterious artist named Harris Burdick decades earlier. Handsell that.

The Brattle Theatre was full a few nights ago with people eager to hear from a distinguished panel about The Chronicles of Harris Burdick. It was an audience made up almost entirely of adults (one teenaged audience member faux-huffed when that was pointed out), and my sense is that many of us were, in one way or another, "children's lit people." This thing could be meta-children's-lit enough to implode on itself.

But I suspect it isn't.

Look at it this way: it's fourteen authors who are all different kinds of awesome, each responding to a writing prompt in the form of a picture and a caption. It's like a game, and I hope teachers will let their students try their hand at it before sharing the collection. The backstory will likely be fun for some kids; I would've loved it. But for those not drawn in by it, I think the collection will stand on its own.

In any case, if you ever have the chance to hear Chris Van Allsburg talk about physical books or Lois Lowry about Elsie Dinsmore, take it.

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