In 1984, a captivating children's book was published by Houghton Mifflin. "The Mysteries of Harris Burdick" was a series of 14 eerie black-and-white drawings, each with a title and caption and no other explanation.

One showed a nun in full habit, in a cathedral. She is sitting in a chair and floating high in the air above the heads of two cardinals. The caption: "The fifth one ended up in France." Another showed a girl about to cut into a glowing pumpkin. "She lowered the knife and it grew even brighter."

The book was the work of Caldecott winner Chris Van Allsburg, author of "The Polar Express." For 25 years, countless children have pored over these pictures and imagined the stories behind them.

And now children everywhere get to match their imaginations with those of master storytellers. A new companion book, "The Chronicles of Harris Burdick," features Stephen King, Sherman Alexie, Jules Feiffer and others, each telling the story behind one drawing.

Minneapolis writer Kate DiCamillo wrote "The Third-Floor Bedroom," based on a picture that shows wallpaper with a pattern of doves -- and one dove beginning to detach itself. ("It all began when someone left the window open.")

"You can put yourself into a trance with it," she said last year while working on the story. "I have, like, 20 different scenarios. It's like I had commitment issues. It provokes so much."

She will be in conversation with Van Allsburg at 2 p.m. Nov. 20 at the Fitzgerald Theater, 10 E. Exchange St., St. Paul. Admission is $15 for adults, $9 for ages 12 and under.


• Minneapolis businessman Harvey Mackay has a new book: "The Mackay MBA of Selling in the Real World," published by Portfolio/Penguin. The introduction is by Lou Holtz. Mackay will sign books at 4 p.m. Tuesday at Barnes & Noble, Nicollet Mall, Minneapolis.

Pam Houston, author of "Cowboys Are My Weakness," will be in the Twin Cities next weekend to read at a reception honoring winners of the 2011 McKnight Artist Fellowships for Writers, Loft Awards in Creative Prose, which she judged. Winners are John Colburn, Jessica Roeder, Ethan Rutherford and Dominic Saucedo. Heather Bouwman will also be honored; she won the Loft Award in Children's Literature. The reading begins at 7 p.m. Saturday at Open Book, 1011 Washington Av. S., Mpls.