Picture book

The Arrival, by Shaun Tan. Teaching Children and Adults About Immigration.

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Shaun Tan is one of the most talented artists when it comes to children’s literature, and this is not merely my opinion. Winner of the most prestigious children’s literature prize, The Astrid Lindgren Memorial Award, Tan manages to reach out to both children and adults by bringing up contemporary and important themes wrapped in a beautiful world of fantasy. The Arrival is a wordless book, winner of many prizes such as New South Wales Premier’s Literary Award, Children’s Book Council of Australia, Western Australian Premier’s Book Award, and many others.

I am not here to list Shaun Tan’s accomplishments, but to explain how I believe The Arrival can be enjoyed by both adults and children, and used as base material for explaining important social issues.

The Arrival is a picture book containing no words. When I say ´´no words´´ I do mean it, so except the title you won’t stumble upon any other written language you can decode. This is smart for three reasons: firstly, little readers won’t have to know how to read about subjects that often have to be explained in ´´big words´´ and ´´complicated phrases´´; secondly, the readers will have to decode the illustration’s meanings themselves by looking at the pictures and letting their minds work (which is a great creative start); thirdly, the adult and the child can have much more fun making up names for the characters and places, or narrating the action themselves, which is a much more interactive way of storytelling than the classic adult reads- child listens approach. Read the rest of this entry »


Have You Heard of Harris Burdick?

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The Chronicles of Harris Burdick
The Chronicles of Harris Burdick

The Mysteries of Harris Burdick is a very special picture book written by Chris Van Allsburg in 1984. “A picture book?”, you are probably asking now. Well hold on a second! This book is something much more than just that. If you answered my title  question with a  ´´No´´, looking all confused at your monitor, let me enlighten you on who Harris Burdick is. First of all, he is a fictional character. His story goes like this: One day Mr. Burdick, the prolific writer that he was, went to a publisher called Peter Wenders with a collection of 14 illustrations. After proudly telling him that he has a story for every illustration, as well as many more where those cme from, he was informed by Mr. Wenders that  he would love to publish his work. But Mr. Burdick, the tricky thing that he was, did something that would drive any publisher insane. While Mr. Wenders was dreaming of fortune and glory, looking greedily at the 14 illustrations, Mr. Burdick did something very  very rude: he never came back. So now Mr. Wenders was left with a sad-looking deadline and 14 illustrations together with their titles and short captions from the texts. But not the stories! Wait a minute! People can make the stories. So many people did their own stories, based on the Burdick illustrations, titles and captions. Some were scary, some were emotional, some perhaps a little dull.

Did this raise your interest? Well then I will spice it all up a little bit by telling you that the author of this amazing book, Chris Van Allsburg, wrote and illustrated  Jumanji and  The Polar Express. Now you know who wrote this. Now you even know who Harris Burdick is. You are very welcome!

If your answer to my question was a knowledgeable´´ YES! Everyone knows who Harris Burdick is. ‘Doh.´´ ,well then you have to calm yourself ! Do not worry though, this blog entry will not be about The Mysteries of Harris Burdick, but about The Chronicles of Harris Burdick. This is a collection of short stories based on the original illustrations. The authors involved in the project are: Sherman Alexie, M.T. Anderson, Kate Dr. Camillio, Cory Doctorow,Jules Feiffer, Stephen King, Tabitha King, Lois Lowry, Gregory Maguire,Walter Dean Myers,Linda Sue Park,Louis Sachar, Jon Scieszka, and Chris Van Allsburg himself. It is a great collection of short stories that are appropriate for children (most of them, some could be a tiny bit scary or hard to understand; this is of course depending on the age). Read the rest of this entry »