I first saw the drawings in this book a year ago, in the house of a man named Peter Wenders. Though Mr. Wenders is retired now, he once worked for a children’s book publisher, choosing the stories and pictures that would be turned into books. Thirty years ago a man called at Peter Wenders’ office, introducing himself as Harris Burdick. Mr. Burdick explained that he had written fourteen stories and had drawn many pictures for each one. He’d brought with him just one drawing from each story, to see if Wenders liked his work. Peter Wenders was fascinated by the drawings. He told Burdick he would like to read the stories that went with them as soon as possible. The artist agreed to bring the stories the next morning. He left the fourteen drawings with Wenders. But he did not return the next day. Or the day after that. Harris Burdick was never heard from again. Over the years, Wenders tried to find out who Burdick was and what had happened to him, but he discovered nothing. To this day, Harris Burdick remains a complete mystery.
His disappearance is not the only mystery left behind. What were the stories that went with these drawings? There are some clues. Burdick had written a title and caption for each picture. When I told Peter Wenders how difficult it was to look at the drawings and their captions without imagining a story, he smiled and left the room. He returned with a dust-covered cardboard box. Inside were dozens of stories, all inspired by the Burdick drawings. They’d been written years ago by Wenders’ children and their friends. I spent the rest of my visit reading these stories. They were remarkable, some bizarre, some funny, some downright scary. In the hope that other children will be inspired by them, the Burdick drawings have been reproduced here for the first time.
Chris Van Allsburg