When I was a kid, two creepy picture books reigned supreme: Christopher Manson's Maze and Chris Van Allsburg's The Mysteries of Harris Burdick. Both featured black and while illustrations accompanied by slightly weird, slightly unsettling writing; both relied heavily on the reader to conjure their own narratives; both reside in my home office to this very day.
I highly recommend both, but Van Allsburg's The Mysteries of Harris Burdick really is in a league of its own. Unlike Van Allsburg's other kids' books (such as Jumanji and The Polar Express), The Mysteries of Harris Burdick doesn't contain a straightforward narrative: instead, each "chapter" is divided into two pages - one featuring a title and a single line of writing from the author, as well as a full-page illustration that's somehow related. These elements work in tandem to fire the imagination of the reader, and hoo, boy, do they succeed. Each "chapter" of The Mysteries of Harris Burdick is like a creative writing prompt ("Here's a seemingly normal house lifting off the ground like a rocketship", "Here's a guy fighting to the death against...something that's hiding underneath his carpet"), and it's borderline impossible to flip through it without dreaming up your own stories. It's a helluva lot of fun, and the artwork is just as razor-sharp and gorgeously rendered as it is in any Van Allsburg novel.
I've long wondered why someone hadn't bought the rights to turn Harris Burdick into a movie - it seems like an absolutely awesome anthology picture just waiting to happen - but it appears those days are over: according to Deadline, Disney/Fox has picked up the book with the intention of turning it into a movie. So far, they've got Rafe Judkins (showrunner on Amazon's forthcoming Wheel of Time series) onboard to adapt, and...that's it. Nothing further to report at this time.
I have no idea what direction they might be taking this one in (animated? Live action? Anthology? Something more like Goosebumps?), but as a hardcore fan of Van Allsburg's novel I'm very curious to see what becomes of it. This one has the makings for something truly special. Here's hoping they don't screw it up!
Stay tuned for more on The Mysteries of Harris Burdick as further updates roll in.