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An Author Study on Chris Van Allsburg

One of our favorite authors is Chris Van Allsburg. We learned about him and his books as part of a unit on fantasy. Van Allsburg's books are written in picture book format. He has written around 16 books so far and we have read all of them. Some of his books are Jumanji, Two Bad Ants, The Stranger, The Widow's Broom, Just a Dream, Bad Day at Riverbend, The Wretched Stone, and Mysteries of Harris Burdick.

Van Allsburg's books are fun to read because something strange always happens. Each time we heard or read a book we had to figure out when reality stopped and fantasy began. Sometimes there was also a hidden meaning that we would discover afterwards.

One of our favorite parts about reading his books is that in each one Van Allsburg has hidden his dog Fritz. Ms. Barnett's in 1997 found all but one. Her 1998 class found them all. Both classes agreed that the hardest one to find is in The Wretched Stone. What did you think?


The Mysteries of Harris Burdick

If you have ever wanted to write a fantasy, this book is a great place to start! In the book you'll find single pictures with a large title and a caption underneath. The picture, title, and caption almost force you to come up with a story of what the whole thing is about. Once you have written that story, you can send it to Chris Van Allsburg himself while visiting the Harris Burdick Web Site. You can also read other stories written by children across America.

But what is the mystery of Harris Burdick?

According to the introduction, Harris Burdick dropped these pictures off at a children's book editor and told him that he would come back with the rest of the stories attached to each one. He was never seen again. In the portfolio addition of the book, Van Allsburg continued that mystery by announcing that a second picture had been found for one of the titles. But is the dissapearance of Harris Burdick the real mystery? We didn't think so. For us the mystery is whether Chris Van Allsburg made these drawings himself and told that story to get our imaginations moving.


The life of Chris Van Allsburg

In order to write great books you have to start with great ideas. All teachers will tell you that the best place to begin is with the things you know. To learn more about Chris Van Allsburg's life and ideas, click here.

Here are all of Chris Van Allsburg's books. Click on the highlighted text to see our book reviews.

Bad Day at Riverbend (1995)

The Mysteries of Harris Burdick (1994)

The Sweetest Fig (1993)

The Widow's Broom (1992)

The Wretched Stone (1991)

Just a Dream (1990)

Swan Lake (1989)

Two Bad Ants (1988)

The Z Was Zapped (1987)

The Stranger (1986)

The Polar Express (1985)

The Wreck of the Zephyr (1983)

Ben's Dream

Jumanji (1981)

The Garden of Abdul Gasazi (1979)


Links to Chris Van Allsburg on the web

The Mysteries of Harris Burdick
This is an interactive site where you can view the stories about the drawings. There is also great stuff about the author and all of his books, including a one on one interview.
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