Monday, August 27, 2007

Chris Van Allsburg: The Mysteries of Harris Burdick Story Writing Contest

I mentioned in a previous post that some of my Songwriting for Kids students got their song inspirations from the gorgeous Chris Van Allsburg book The Mysteries of Harris Burdick. First of all, let me describe how very cool this book is.

In the foreword, Mr. Van Allsburg (of The Polar Express fame) tells the story of a man named Harris Burdick, who brings a set of drawings to a publisher. Each drawing has a title and a caption (like "The Seven Chairs: The fifth one ended up in France"). Shortly after this meeting with the publisher, Mr. Burdick disappears, leaving only the illustrations behind. (You can read the full story behind the illustrations at Chris Van Allsburg's website.)

You cannot help being swept up into this book. Look through it with a child of any age (or even an adult like me) and the questions come flying: Who are those children? Where are they sailing to? Why? How did they get there? What are they trying to get away from? And inevitably the stories start forming: Maybe they're traveling to an enchanted kingdom. Because they need to find something. It could be a special healing stone. No, they're looking for their parents. Maybe their parents are there and they have the stone...

The stunning pictures and intriguing captions make The Mysteries of Harris Burdick a perfect tool for story-writing (and songwriting!) inspiration.

So... it was with much excitement that I came across Chris Van Allsburg's new project: The Mysteries of Harris Burdick Story Writing Contest. Now all those kids who've been inadvertently writing their own stories for these illustrations can write them down and submit them, and possibly win the entire Chris Van Allsburg library!

Entries are due in January 2008, so there is plenty of time...I think this would be a great project for any kid to get involved in. It's a great way to inspire creativity and practice writing skills, and the contest format creates a goal and a deadline and something fun to be involved in, no matter what the outcome.

If you'd like to hear the Harris Burdick-inspired songs "The Magical Harp" and "Mystery" that my summer students wrote, you can hear them in the Songwriting for Kids Listening Room.

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