By Chris Van Allsburg
If I could invent literary awards, there would be an accordion-shaped medallion handed out for tomes that somehow blossom into many different books upon reading. Italo Calvino's delightful If on a winter's night a traveler is one great example (it begins, "You are about to begin reading Italo Calvino's new novel, If on a winter's night a traveler. Relax. Concentrate.") but Chris Van Allsburg's illustrated marvel happens to be my favorite. The conceit is simple and brilliant: a man named Harris Burdick leaves a publisher just one masterful drawing, along with its caption, from each of fourteen proposed picture books. But Burdick never returns, so the rest of his stories must come from our imagination. Half story, half puzzle, Harris Burdick is an object lesson in the suggestive power of a single fictive moment, as enjoyable for kids as it is for grownups.