There are so many great fiction books on the 2012 Best Fiction for Young Adults list that it was hard to pick just one to highlight. So, I fell back on an old favorite. The Chronicles of Harris Burdick shares 14 stories from well known young adult authors such as M.T. Anderson, Sherman Alexie, and Walter Dean Myers. All of these stories are based on the book The Mysteries of Harris Burdick by Chris VanAllsburg, a book with wonderful illustrations and cryptic captions.
For years, I have used the portfolio edition of The Mysteries of Harris Burdick as a writing prompt for my teen writing group. They would each pick an illustration and write a story about it to share with the group. Now, with The Chronicles, I can also share stories with them by their favorite authors that were inspired by the same illustration. The stories are short enough that they could even be read aloud. A great, multi-week writing group program would be to show an illustration from The Mysteries and read the caption. Then, give the teens 30 minutes to write a short story based on the illustration. Then, read the corresponding story from The Chronicles. It’s a great chance to talk about point of view and perspective in writing because everyone can look at the same illustration and come up with a different story, which may or may not be wildly different from the version in the book. This could also tie in to talking about different books by the authors of the stories in the Chronicles and what the teens might have done differently than the authors if they had been writing the story.
To me, The Mysteries of Harris Burdick have always been inspiring. I’m glad to see that some of my favorite YA authors felt the same way. The Chronicles of Harris Burdick adds a whole new dimension to them.