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A Home Learning Branch for The Mysteries of Harris Burdick


KS: Lower KS2

Year Group: Year 3

Author(s): Chris Van Allsburg

This is a Home Learning Branch for The Mysteries of Harris Burdick.  These branches are designed to support home learners to access literature-based learning using a selection of books we love from Writing Roots.  They include purposeful writing suggestions, links to the wider curriculum so that texts can be used across other subjects, key questions as well as spelling or phonics investigations.

A Writing Root is available for The Mysteries of Harris Burdick.

Writing Root Overview:


Setting description, short first person narrative, dialogue, action scene

Main Outcome:

Extended fantasy narrative


15 sessions, 3 weeks

Overview and Outcomes:

This is a three-week Writing Root which uses The Mysteries of Harris Burdick by Chris Van Allsburg. Children begin by exploring the illustrations – left in a mysterious suitcase in the classroom – and creating mystery setting descriptions, using a variety of grammatical and authorial tools.  They go on to create action, character and dialogue in their middle-sections and endings. Children will explore many of the illustrations in this text. In the final part of the Writing Root, children write their own fantasy stories, based upon the illustration Mr. Linden’s Library. They will finally edit and publish their stories in a class collection for others to read. Afterwards, children will receive a letter from a mysterious H.B. thanking them for creating stories for these illustrations. 

Synopsis of Text:

"His disappearance is not the only mystery left behind. What were the stories that went with these drawings? There are some clues..." 

Who is Harris Burdick? Where did he disappear to? And how was he going to finish his stories?

Chris Van Allsburg presents a series of loosely related drawings each accompanied by a title and a caption which the reader may use to make up his or her own story.

Text Rationale:

This book is a treat for the imagination which throws up more questions than answers and will encourage children to infer at a deep level.  The collection of mysterious images, each with an accompanying caption, provides the perfect stimulation for children’s own story-telling and application of language.  Chris Van Allsburg is two-time recipient of the prestigious Caldecott Medal and this book will be a starting point for children’s explorations into his other works such as Jumanji and The Polar Express.  

Links and themes:

Mysteries, wordless books, exploration, imagination

Date written: February 2013

Updated: March 2023

View The Mysteries of Harris Burdick Writing Root

A Spelling Seed is available for The Mysteries of Harris Burdick.

Spelling Seed Overview:


This is a three-session spelling seed for the book The Mysteries of Harris Burdick by Chris Van Allsberg.  Below is the coverage from Appendix 1 of the National Curriculum 2014.

Spelling Seeds have been designed to complement Writing Roots by providing weekly, contextualised sequences of sessions for the teaching of spelling that include open-ended investigations and opportunities to practise and apply within meaningful and purposeful contexts, linked (where relevant) to other areas of the curriculum and a suggestion of how to extend the investigation into home learning.

There is a Spelling Seed session for every week of the associated Writing Root.


Word List Words

answer, certain, difficult, height, notice, possess(ion), reign

Spelling Rules and Patterns

Words with the /ʃ/ sound spelt ch (mostly French in origin)

Words with endings sounding like /ʒə/ or /tʃə/

View The Mysteries of Harris Burdick Spelling Seed
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