Monday, October 06, 2008

Would You Like to Write With Us?

Chris Van Allsburg's excellent children's book The Mysteries of Harris Burdick has been a source of writing inspiration for my students for years. I honestly have never had more success getting my students to write than using this book as a story starter.

So, my question to you is, "Will you join us?" I want you to write a story based on one of Van Allsburg's pictures from The Mysteries of Harris Burdick. There are two rules to this assignment:

1. You must use the line that goes with the picture somewhere in your story.
2. The story must have something to do with the picture.

If you don't have a copy this link will take you to Google Book Search of the story.

Write your story on your blog, or use Google docs, or some other on-line publishing and send me the link so my class can read it and so I can link to it. If you can't publish it on-line, email it to me at and I will post it here on the blog. You can even record audio or video of you reading your story!

There is no reward except for the joy of writing and sharing with others and perhaps the coveted Blogging Tiger Award for Writing to place on your blog or website.


Leeza said...

Hi, it's me, Leeza. I saw that you were reading the Harris Burdick Mysteries. I read those when I was in fourth grade, and what we had to do was write a story for the mystery. We each chose one and I got Mr. Linden's Library. Then we compared our stories with other classes and saw the difference of our ideas. Talk to you soon!

kayla said...

Hi Leeza what are you doing?

Anonymous said...

Hi I'm Chloe from 4/5J Brisbane Australia. My blog adress is I thought that post was fantastic. I would like to read that book.

Chloe 4/5J

Anonymous said...

If there was an answer, he’d find it there.
Jamie had never known what had happened to his father; he had no memories of him. He’d only seen his father trough pictures, but he hadn’t ever cared. Until he found the box.
It was a delicate little box, maybe big enough to hold a few pencils. Graceful roses were engraved into the wood. Everything about it screamed, “Breakable! Be careful!”
Jamie had tried to open it, with no success. It was locked. But he had been too intrigued by the box that he hadn’t noticed the papers under it. There had been a picture and a letter, both yellow and crumpled with age. Jamie recognized the picture. It was one of his father.
Suddenly, a memory came back to him. He couldn’t have been more than three or four at the time. He was looking outside, at a glowing fire just outside. A figure stood beside the fire. His mother. She was crying and feeding the fire paper. Jamie couldn’t remember seeing his father anymore after that, even in pictures. His mother had burned all the pictures.
Why? And why hadn’t she burnt this one? Jamie’s head swam with questions but he picked up the letter calmly and started reading. It was addressed to Janice, his mother. It was a goodbye letter. Jamie’s father had said there was no hope left...

...And that's all I got. It was for an English assignment and I'm not finished yet.

Wm Chamberlain said...

@Anonymous Awesome start, please post the rest when you have finished it.
Mr. C

Grace Lo said...

Hi Mr c, here's my story. i havent gotten around to the part where the phrase is.
Uncle Linden had always been my favourite person in the whole entire world. He always reminded me of the old wizards in fairy tales, with his snowy white beard, the little spectacles that rested on his nose and the clear blue eyes that glinted from excitement. Whenever I asked him a question, he always had the same answer. “Sahvannah, the world has its mysteries and secrets. Discover them and they will be your own.
Uncle Linden has an old house, one of those houses that always seem to be hiding a revolving bookcase, a secret stairway, or a disappearing door. But best of all was the library, musty from the scent of books that existed long before he was born, or newly printed books that seems to release paper dust whenever the pages are turned. One bookshelf, containing stories without titles on neither the cover or spine, I had always wanted to explore. I would have long ago satisfied my wanting of the irresistible books, if not for Uncle Linden’s ominous warning: “I forbid you from going even near the shelf. The releasing of those memories is deadly, not just to you but to everyone else on the planet.”
I never knew what that meant.

Grace Lo said...

Uncle Linden invited me to stay at his home. His daughter, Sofia, had come back from studying abroad, and he wanted us to celebrate it together.
Sofia, much like my uncle, always has a smile to spare, and the same sparkling mustang blue eyes. When I was younger, I asked her if she would grow a beard when she’s older. She only laughed and said maybe. Despite our eight year difference in age, we were best friends.
When I arrived at the old house, I was greeted by long gangly arms around my body. Sofia.
She eventually let go of me. “Sahvannah! You’ve grown so much in the last two years! Are you thirteen or something like that?”
“Twelve.” I grinned.
Uncle Linden coughed to get our attention. “Sahvannah, thank you very much for coming to stay with us; I really appreciate it. I know that usually you would chat with me for a long time after you arrive, but Sofia has things to discuss with me.” It was my cue to retreat to the library.
In the library, as always, I randomly pulled down a book and was intrigued in the setting beyond the pages soon after I settled in, not stopping until Uncle Linden announced the dinner preparation complete.

Grace Lo said...

I sat down at the ancient chestnut brown dinner table to eat spaghetti, Sophia’s favourite. Uncle Linden and I were captured within Sophia’s description of Spain, France, and Italy. Slowly, long after the spaghetti was consumed, I felt my eyelids droop, lower and lower, until I excused myself for a good night’s sleep.
I had intended to go straight to bed until I caught a glimpse of the prohibited bookcase. It was there, prompting me to reach for a book and tear up the stairs to read under the covers.
My energy was suddenly restored.
And I did just that.
Little did I know of the powerful story that I clutched between my clammy fingers.

Grace Lo said...

The young girl was now asleep, her eyes red from staying up long after curfew. By her arm was a dusty, mustang blue leather-bound diary, the pages crumbly and withered. Whoever wrote it described a majestically beautiful place where fish had wings and fluttered onto your shoulders; where horses pulled through the water with exceptionally strong fins; where odd vines and towering trees grew everywhere.
The young girl’s dreams were not nearly as pretty. She drifted off, images of vines grabbing her beloved uncle, and roots of trees twisting around her fun-loving cousin flooded her mind.
Meanwhile, the book flipped open, pages turning, as if a ghostly hand was trying to find one special page. And the page-turning stopped. A green leaf sprouted from the diary, followed by vines and forest debris.
He had warned her about the book. Now it was too late.


I woke up to my ticklish feet. And saw vines crawling across my bed. Daring myself not to scream, for the sake of the still asleep people in the house, I ran for the door, encased in vegetation, just like everything else in the room. I opened the door and came face to face with Uncle Linden and Sofia.
Second thought, I should’ve screamed.
“Sahvannah, did you take a book from that bookcase?” I’ve never seen Uncle Linden so mad. Sofia only stared, gaping, the fire of excitement extinguished from her eyes.
But I couldn’t bring myself to lie. “Yes.”
“And you read it, bringing the memories back to life!” Uncle Linden’s was hollering by now, a vein on his forehead throbbing with pulsing red blood. They didn’t notice the forestry creeping up on them until they were closer to them than even their own shadows.
Uncle Linden paled, than spoke with a sore throat from yelling, gentler than I would’ve imagined “You were the one who opened the book. It’s your task to close it.”
Sofia finally made a move. She drew a Swiss Army knife from her pocket and, with accuracy, threw it into my open palm. “Use it to cut the vines if they start bothering you.”
And my dream replayed again in front of my eyes. Only this time it was for real. The unearthly vines were desperately attempting to pull a resisting Uncle Linden into the unfamiliar vegetation. Sofia was then struggling to lift her legs up from the undying grips of the gnarled roots which were slowly dragging her beneath the earth.
Uncle Linden and Sofia were gone.
But I have to close the book. It wasn’t hard, locating the book shining in a strange orb of branches. I cut the twigs away, picking the book up, and bringing the pages together.
Suddenly, the dirt, pebbles, trees, vines, rushed past me into the book, almost knocking me over. I caught a glimpse of Uncle Linden’s beard, and Sofia’s arm. Suddenly, the diary was enveloped in a cover of flames, burning the book up, and almost immediately doused, creating a hill of ashes at my feet.
I sat down, feeling the tears brimming over. They were really gone. Permanently.


I’m Dusty, short for Dustin Trevors. I live with one of my really distant relatives, ‘cause my parents dropped me off by a Dumpster somewhere in New York City.
Somehow, Aunt Sahvannah wanted to do a DNA test on me while I was a baby. And baffled the DNA people by how she might be my grandparent’s sibling’s kid. It felt nice, for once belonging to a family, getting out of that stupid orphanage and get such an awesome guardian. Aunt Sahvannah agreed with me.
At Auntie’s house, anything goes. Gosh, she wouldn’t look twice if I rollerbladed down the halls. Except she would get all mad if I even looked at the old bookshelf. What’s wrong with looking? Is it against the law or something?
Today, I swear I’ll find the reason. I stood up from the old couch and entered the library. Quickly, I went upstairs into my bedroom, and began to read.

Wm Chamberlain said...

Great story, Grace. It could have been a movie plot. I am sure when Chris Van Allsburg drew the picture his story must have been similar.