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Thursday, March 6, 2014


Title: The Chronicles of Harris Burdick: 14 Amazing Authors Tell the Tales
Authors: Chris Van Allsburg (editor and illustrator); Lemony Snicket (introduction)
Pub info: HMH Books for Young Readers, 2011; 195 pp
Genre: MG fantasy/paranormal

The fourth book on this year's TBR shelf is an anthology--not my usual style, but I love the concept. Here's the scoop:

Goodreads summary:
Best-selling storytellers share tales inspired by the thought-provoking illustrations in Chris Van Allsburg's The Mysteries of Harris Burdick in a volume that includes contributions by such writers as Kate DiCamillo, Stephen King, and Jon Scieszka.

Status: Finished 2/28/14

My impressions:
Er ... augh! I have to confess that I wanted to love this collection more than I actually did love it. I remembered while reading it why I so rarely read short stories anymore. I used to love them, back in my high school and college lit courses, where they abound. But nowadays, I'd prefer to immerse myself wholly in a story for an extended period of time, not take a quick dip in and be forced out of the pool just as things get interesting.

The other problem with anthologies is that they're bound to be uneven, and this one is no exception. I was surprised to find that the stories by my favorite authors weren't necessarily the best in the collection. For example, I loved "Archie Smith, Boy Wonder" by Tabitha King, an author I'd never read before, but I was underwhelmed by Lois Lowry's "Seven Chairs." Other highlights include "Missing in Venice" (Gregory Maguire), "The Harp" (Linda Sue Park), and "Another Place, Another Time" (Cory Doctorow).

I can't fault the writing of any of these stories, only how well they engaged my interest. Some ended too abruptly, as if the author had wanted to write a novel but was shoehorned into too brief a format, and one was very reminiscent of a popular film I recall from years back. (I won't say which film, because that would give away the premise, but you'll know if you read it.)

Am I glad I read the book? Sure, and I'm happy to own the hardcover edition, because the illustrations are beautiful and again, I like the idea of the book. I'd recommend it, but be aware, you may well love some stories and think others are a bit meh.

About Chris:
Chris Van Allsburg was born in Grand Rapids, Michigan, and has been writing and illustrating children's books since the publication of his first book, The Garden of Abdul Gasazi, in 1979. Since then, Chris has written and illustrated 15 books and has illustrated three others that were written by Mark Helprin. He has won two Caldecott medals for his books Jumanji (1981) and The Polar Express (1985). He lives with his wife and kids in Providence, Rhode Island.

Visit Chris's very fun and interactive website here.  Watch an amusing trailer by Lemony Snicket here.

To follow my progress as I bulldoze my way through a stack of 51 to-be-reads this year, search for the tag 2014 TBR Shelf. Read all the reviews here.

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