Sunday, October 16, 2011

Mystery Monday #6

Welcome to our regular Monday feature, where you'll find different kinds of writing prompts and exercises. Each week, we'll give you something to help exercise your mystery-writing muscles.

Today’s idea comes from my library and my teaching. One of the books I love to share with students this time of year is Chris Van Allsburg’s THE MYSTERIES OF HARRIS BURDICK. If you aren’t familiar with this book, it’s a mystery wrapped in an enigma with a lot of riddle sprinkled on top. (Or however that saying goes. :-) ) Anyway, it’s irresistible. 

Van Allsburg’s story goes that there once was a book editor who was visited by a man named Harris Burdick. Mr. Burdick shared one illustration from 14 different stories he wrote. He left them with the editor to consider and promised to return the next day. But Harris Burdick was never heard from again. All we have left are his intriguing pictures, each accompanied by a caption and the title of the story.

From caterpillars who can spell, to a house that blasts off, each picture is spooky, fascinating, and slightly bizarre. I’ve never met a student who wasn’t drawn into these illustrations and didn’t immediately start buzzing about what the story could be behind them. And of course, the next step is to challenge students (or yourself!) to write that story.

Over the years, I’ve gotten many wonderful stories out of these pictures. Some sad, some funny, some downright terrifying, they never cease to amaze me how each individual can bring his own thoughts and experiences and creativity to create something completely new.

And once you are done writing and sharing your students’ work, treat yourself and your students to this newly released book: THE CHRONICLES OF HARRIS BURDICK. 14 stellar children’s authors try their hands at explaining the Harris Burdick pictures. Again—some sad, some funny, some terrifying—but also a perfect link to show your students that professional writers use the same strategies and processes that they do.

Happy writing!

W.H. Beck


CONTEST UPDATE: We have a winner! MELODIE WRIGHT has won a signed copy of COLD CASE by Julia Platt Leonard. Congratulations, Melodie! And thanks to everyone who entered last week's contest. 

Check back this Wednesday, 10/19, for details about our next book giveaway . . . and meet our third Interrogation Room suspect! (Clue: Her middle grade mystery concerns an unusual musical instrument!)

1 comment:

  1. Thanks for the great suggestion, W.H. Beck! I love Chris Van Allsburg's illustrations, but was unfamiliar with this book and the companion book of responses to it. Will definitely check this out!


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