Chasing Vermeer Book Report

Chasing Vermeer by Blue Balliett is certainly an old-school mystery story for kids whilst also being firmly rooted in the 20th Century both in the style of language used and in its main characters, Calder and Petra.These two 11 year-olds are drawn into a quest to locate Vermeer's "A Lady Writing A Letter", stolen en route to a Chicago art gallery.A very short, recent Twitter conversation reminded of this book that I read about four years ago, brought back from the US for me by my brother.

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There are also several codes that require solving at various stages of the story and again, this extra stimulation is a welcome addition to a book for children.

However, I have to admit that despite enjoying this book due to its quirky style and very likeable characters, I was left feeling more than a little disappointed.

Around an art theft, a painting by Vermeer called A Lady Writing, Blue Balliett twines patterns, puzzles, blue M & Ms, coincidences, secret letters, and codes.

Into this mix she throws a couple of intelligent, curious and "weird" kids — Calder Pillay and Petra Andalee.

Can they decipher a crime that has stumped even the FBI? The climax dragged too much and there were too many unnecessary details. I'm not really a mystery fan but I was still hoping for something...

It was written by Elizabeth Balliett Klein under the pseudonym Blue Balliett. The book centers around two Chicago sixth graders, Calder Pillay and Petra Andalee, who come together through a series of unexplainable coincidences.This bewitching first novel is a puzzle, wrapped in a mystery, disguised as an adventure, and delivered as a work of art.When a book of unexplainable occurences brings Petra and Calder together, strange things start to happen: Seemingly unrelated events connect; an eccentric old woman seeks their company; an invaluable Vermeer painting disappears.In his illustrations, he has hidden a secret message, which involves a secret code/cipher from the book.Chasing Vermeer has two sequels, The Wright 3 and The Calder Game.When a famous Johannes Vermeer painting, A Lady Writing, is stolen, the two kids work together to solve the mystery that even the FBI cannot solve.The book is illustrated by Brett Helquist, who is also the illustrator of the A Series of Unfortunate Events books.Then just to notch it up a bit more on the intelligence quotient, Balliett arranges the narrative and the clues around pentominoes (a mathematical tool consisting of twelve pieces used by mathematicians to explore ideas about geometry and numbers.Pentominoes can also be used as puzzle pieces, akin to Tetris, and put together in numerous different rectangles).It also got me wondering whether there are any more out there that I should know about.I grew up surrounded by mystery books - Enid Blyton's Famous Five and Five Find-outers led to The Three Investigators and then on to the Hardy Boys and finally Agatha Christie, but these days there don't seem to be as many new books published in this genre for the YA market.


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