1/24/2016

Mystery Genre Book Review and Recommendation: The Mysteries of Harris Burdick

This book is among my top 10 favorite picture books of all time...

Sometimes amazing books get lost amongst the thousands of "other" GOOD books...and sometimes, these books are worth finding...because they contain treasure loved by most if not all.  It's my intent to bring these hidden jewels to light, the books that are sometimes left behind the others, but so deserve a space among the stars.

If you're familiar with Chris Van Allsburg, you know he writes amazing pieces of literature including Jumanji and The Polar Express.  What you might not know is that he also wrote what might be his most ingenious work of all time, The Mysteries of Harris Burdick.  This book is perfect for so many situations in the classroom and/or library including mystery genre studies, illustration studies in art and creative writing activities.  This is one of my all time favorite read alouds during our genre study on mysteries.  During their study, our third grade teachers have "Mystery Readers" each afternoon with clues...the students try to guess who is coming to read...it's a fun way to incorporate some new faces during your genre study.  I always bring this book to read aloud, along with copies of the illustrations in the book to leave with the classroom.  Classes usually end up completing a follow up activity of some type using the illustrations.  It's such a fun read...and it's true...so it makes for a great discussion piece. 

With only an introduction to read and the captions and titles to the pictures, the illustrations are far more important than the text in this particular book.  Be sure to set aside some time to allow students to study and think about the pictures.

The summary on the inside flap of the book cover reads as follows:

When Chris Van Allsburg was invited to the home of Peter Wenders, he discovered fourteen drawings that were, like pieces of a picture puzzle, clues to larger pictures.  But the puzzles, the mysteries, presented by these drawings, are not what we are used to.  They are not solved for us, as in the final pages of a book or a film's last reel.  The solutions to these mysteries lie in a place at once closer at hand, yet far more remote.  They lie in our imagination. 

For those who have thought of themselves as unimaginative, this book will prove the opposite.  Even the most reluctant imagination, when confronted by these drawings, will not be able to resist solving the mysteries of Harris Burdick.

The students LOVE this book.  The teachers LOVE this book.  If your child is in a class studying mysteries, this would make a great gift for the teacher!  Volunteer to read it aloud and then give the book to the class.  It's such a fun read.  I highly recommend it for grades 3-5.  I wouldn't go any lower than 3rd grade unless you're using it in an art class setting or with gifted learners.

Below are five free resources to use with this book...but it would be so easy to come up with so much more!
1.  Harris Burdick Comprehension Chart
2.  Harris Burdick Writing Lesson
3.  The Harris Burdick Project Complete with Illustrations
4.  Harris Burdick Teaching Prompts from Houghton Mifflin
5.  Harris Burdick Teacher's Guide from TeacherVision

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