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The Mysteries of Harris Burdick

The Mysteries of Harris Burdick is a mystery book composed of exquisite black and-white drawings, each with a title and a tag line, that practically beg to be written about.

Grades 4-8
Subjects Language Arts, Art
Time Frame One introductory lesson, several sessions for writing and editing
Materials A copy of The Mysteries of Harris Burdick, writing and publishing materials

Web Help

The Harris Burdick website,,contains teacher tips, reader's stories, an opportunity to submit stories and a couple of animations and songs inspired by the illustrations.

In 1984, the incomparable Chris Van Allsburg published The Mysteries of Harris Burdick. The book's beautiful illustrations are available in a portfolio edition containing loose, oversize sheets perfect for display in the classroom.
The book begins with a letter from Chris Van Allsburg to the reader. It contains a challenge: to take inspiration from the drawings and to make up stories to accompany them. Once the students see the drawings the lesson practically runs itself. Students may choose the drawing that intrigues them the most as the basis for their story. Follow your usual class procedure for writing, editing and sharing.
A great follow-up to the story writing is an Art lesson using charcoal pencils or sticks.

Book Tie-ins

The book tie-ins for each project are a starting point to which you will add your own choices of material to share with your students. Spend some time exploring your school library, work with your teacher-librarian, get to know a children's librarian at your public library, and be on the lookout for music, poetry, news stories and personal experiences that you can add to what you are teaching in the classroom.
Talk is essential and connections are everywhere. Your students will bring dimensions to class discussions that will amaze you. Over the course of the year you will build a culture shared references in discussions with your students. This will be the scaffold upon which they will stand to think, connect, create and become lifelong learners.

Printed with permission from Firefly Books Ltd.Great Teacher Projects: K-8

Great Teacher Projects K-8 by Laura Mayne

Get The Book


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