We tend to think of reading to kids in public libraries as something specific to pre-readers; once a child can read for him/herself, they don't need to be read to, right? Wrong. It doesn't matter how old you are, how strong a reader you are--everyone loves and benefits from listening to stories. If you're looking for shorter, strange, and sometimes mysterious tales to read, either to yourself or a group of school children, give these two books a try.
The Chronicles of Harris Burdick was just released not too long ago. It is in immediate response to The Mysteries of Harris Burdick, a picture book published in the eighties. Mysteries was comprised of 14 strange illustrations, each with a cryptic title and caption from its unpublished story counterpart. The story goes that Harris Burdick was a man who stopped into a publisher to show these 14 illustrations and give just a taste of the stories that accompanied them. He left these bits with the publisher along with a promise to return the next day with the full narratives, but he never returned. So intrigued was this publisher that he published Mysteries, and ever since folks have been wondering what the true tales behind the images might be. The Chronicles of Harris Burdick is a long-awaited answer to those wonderings. While Harris Burdick never did reappear (is he real?), 14 talented children's authors each chose a picture, title, and caption set and crafted a story to fit it. The result is a book of 14 wonderfully strange stories well befitting the mystery of the original picture book.
The Troll with No Heart in His Body is a likewise intriguing anthology. It contains various stories of trolls from Norse mythology, some familiar and some not. It includes the Three Billy Goats Gruff, but it also includes such fun and beautiful tales as the Eating Competition and the Boy and the North Wind. Like all good folktales, they tell the reader/listener something about life--the moral--as well as about the culture from which the tale originated. I would love to use these stories in a program and then make guesses as to why trolls were the national monster of Norway, and we could make trolls out of random craft supplies as well. Regardless of whether you read these tales alone, tell them to others, or make them part of a larger event, they are very much tales worth reading.