The Calder Game

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This new mystery from bestselling author Blue Balliett is now available in After Words paperback!

When Calder Pillay travels with his father to a remote village in England, he finds a mix of mazes and mystery . . . including an unexpected Alexander Calder sculpture in the town square. Calder is strangely drawn to the sculpture, while other people have less-than-friendly feelings towards it. Both the boy and the sculpture seem to be out of place . . . and then, on the same ...

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This new mystery from bestselling author Blue Balliett is now available in After Words paperback!

When Calder Pillay travels with his father to a remote village in England, he finds a mix of mazes and mystery . . . including an unexpected Alexander Calder sculpture in the town square. Calder is strangely drawn to the sculpture, while other people have less-than-friendly feelings towards it. Both the boy and the sculpture seem to be out of place . . . and then, on the same night, they disappear! Calder's friends Petra and Tommy must fly out to help his father find him. But this mystery has more twists and turns than a Calder mobile . . . with more at stake than first meets the eye.

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Editorial Reviews

From Barnes & Noble
There is no mystery about why visitor Calder Pillay would be so fascinated by the sculpture tucked in the town square of the small English village. After all, Alexander Calder, his namesake, created this impressive piece. Coincidences grow darker, however, when both Calder and the Calder sculpture vanish, sending family and friends Petra and Tommy into an understandable tizzy. This edition to Blue Balliett's aesthetically inclined mysteries will please fans of her Chasing Vermeer and The Wright 3.
Publishers Weekly

Acclaimed for her sophisticated juggling of art concepts, mystery, philosophy and storytelling, Balliett (Chasing Vermeer) outdoes herself with this ambitious novel. Like its predecessors, it asks readers to consider big ideas, this time using the mobiles of Alexander Calder as a springboard. Now in seventh grade, series heroes Petra, Tommy and Calder first see Calder's mobiles at an exhibit at a Chicago museum. There they are introduced to the "Calder game," which invites participants to join five ideas or things that move in relation to one another, while looking for "balance, beauty, and surprise." Three weeks later, Calder accompanies his father to a tiny town near Blenheim Palace in England, where an anonymous donor has installed a Calder sculpture in the ancient town square, much to the villagers' dismay. Curiously, Calder's own presence seems to inspire dismay as well-until he, and the sculpture, simply vanish overnight. The mystery is crafted more solidly than in either of Balliett's previous titles, and the setting-enriched by the hedge maze of Blenheim and the possible proximity of the pseudonymous British artist Banksy-proves completely enticing. And once again Helquist encodes his b&w illustrations with puzzle pieces. Motivated readers will treasure this provocative title. Ages 9-12. (May)

Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
VOYA - Heather Christiansen
When twelve-year-old Calder Pillay leaves his hometown Chicago for a week in England with his father, they are shocked to discover a large sculpture by the American artist Alexander Calder. The modern sculpture seems out of place in the quaint, old-fashioned village. The visit takes a sinister turn when both Calders-statue and boy-disappear. Calder's friends Petra, Tommy, and the elderly Mrs. Sharpe arrive in England to assist Calder's father and the police in the hunt. Without Calder to hold them together, the tenuous relationship between Tommy and Petra is put to the test. Balliett again skillfully weaves art, math, puzzles, and suspense into a page-turning mystery. This installment is perhaps less mystical than the first two and more mysterious, with a possible kidnapping and some shady characters imparting a dangerous element. Her end notes will likely send readers on a search for more information about Alexander Calder, Blenheim Palace, pentominoes, and Banksy-actual places, people, and things. Helquist's pen-and-ink drawings add a visual element to the puzzle, with a secret code hidden within the pictures. At times, Balliett stretches the suspension of disbelief nearly to the breaking point: A couple of twelve-year-olds are not likely to be asked to participate in a search for a missing child, let alone cross the Atlantic to do so. Nevertheless fans will root for this gifted threesome and relish the suspense the author so masterfully creates. Reviewer: Heather Christiansen
Mary Schmutz
Calder Pillay and his father are off to England on a business trip. Calder is fascinated because they will be staying near Blenheim Park, home to a famous maze. Calder loves making and figuring out mazes. Calder likes using these to solve puzzles. His friends, Petra and Tommy, each have their own fascinations. Petra is a word whiz, while Tommy was a collector. They kids also love mobiles inspired by Alexander Calder. In England, Calder disappears the exact same moment that the new town sculpture disappears. Petra and Tommy rush off to help find their friend. Who would want to take an American boy visiting England? Why do the townspeople detest a piece of sculpture that was given out of admiration? Playing with words, shapes, and numbers, the kids just might find their way out of a maze. Reviewer: Mary Schmutz
School Library Journal

Gr 5-8- Those precocious art sleuths Calder, Petra, and Tommy are back, and this mystery is every bit as intricate, engaging, and delightful as Chasing Vermeer (2004) and The Wright 3 (2006, both Scholastic). The three seventh graders go with their class to an exhibit of Alexander Calder's mobiles at the Museum of Contemporary Art in Chicago. Soon after, Calder and his father travel to a remote village in England that has an anonymously donated Calder sculpture, the Minotaur , and a maze at Blenheim Park. Both the boy and the sculpture disappear on the same night. Balliett's love of words and her ability to tuck hidden, subtle clues into her story are evident throughout. Petra and Tommy fly to England to help Calder's dad and the police find their friend. The kids see mobiles everywhere: in the leaves, flying crows, paper trash. Indeed, the whole story is structured as a mobile, with plot and characters twisting and turning, moving and dancing around each other. The young sleuths are able to take what seems to be chance and coincidence and apply their own conclusions to the puzzle wrapped inside this mystery. Balliett's wonderful writing is full of foreshadowing, literary allusions, wordplay, and figurative language. Calder's signature yellow pentominoes play an important role, and the kids create a new code. Helquist's detailed illustrations enhance this multilayered story. Fans of the author's previous novels are in for a treat in this latest adventure.-Connie Tyrrell Burns, Mahoney Middle School, South Portland, ME

Kirkus Reviews
Balliett's third mystery falls short of Chasing Vermeer's brilliance, and the triangular friendship among Calder, Petra and Tommy, skillfully developed in The Wright 3, receives bumpier treatment here (2004; 2006). The three seventh graders experience a transformative field trip to view Alexander Calder's massive, colorful mobiles. The scene shifts radically when Calder's father takes his son along on a business trip to England. Calder goes missing and stays thus for nearly half the novel. Improbably, Petra, Tommy and their elderly friend Mrs. Sharp fly to England to assist. Intricate plotting involves Blenheim Palace's maze, an anonymously (and roundly disliked) donated Calder sculpture stolen from Woodstock's village square, a mysterious American named Art Wish, the influence of the elusive British guerilla artist Banksy, a gad-about cat and much more. Tommy and Petra's pairing kindles mutual admiration but oddly hapless explorations-Calder, trapped in a Palace waterfall's hidden crevasse, ends up rescued by cops. While a fourth adventure's intimated, problematic construction and too many tidy dei ex machinis (including their nasty teacher's turning terrific) mar this one. (author's notes) (Fiction. 9-12)First printing of 150,000. $100,000 ad/promo
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780439852081
  • Publisher: Scholastic, Inc.
  • Publication date: 4/1/2010
  • Format: Mass Market Paperback
  • Pages: 416
  • Sales rank: 116,375
  • Age range: 8 - 12 Years
  • Product dimensions: 5.36 (w) x 7.62 (h) x 0.81 (d)

Meet the Author

Blue Balliett

Blue Balliett is the author of several bestselling, acclaimed mystery novels, including Chasing Vermeer (a Book Sense Book of the Year and an Edgar Award winner), The Wright 3, The Calder Game, and The Danger Box. She writes in the laundry room of her home in Chicago, Illinois, and you can find her online at

Brett Helquist was born in Ganado, Arizona, and grew up in Orem, Utah. He entered Brigham Young University as an engineering major, but soon realized this was not the right choice for him. Having decided to take time off from college, he headed to Taiwan where he stumbled into a job illustrating English textbooks, which he enjoyed. There, a friend introduced him to an illustration student, also from Brigham Young University. This introduction inspired Brett to eventually switch majors. After spending a year in Taiwan, he went back to BYU and transferred to the illustration department. In 1993 he received a fine arts degree in illustration.

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Interviews & Essays

An Interview with Blue BalliettQ: Your appreciation of Alexander Calder's work comes through strongly in The Calder Game. What do you think is the appeal of his sculptures -- to both kids and adults? A: There is something deeply satisfying about his sculpture that is hard to explain -- I've been looking at it for over forty years, and I still don't really understand where the "just right" feeling comes from. His work is a crazy bundle of opposites. It's playful and unpretentious -- accessible to all ages -- yet unpredictable, asymmetrical, graceful, balanced. There is something oddly alive about these metal constructions, something that doesn't seem to depend on any formula or set of ingredients. Hmm, perhaps it's magic. Q: What do you want readers to come away with when they read The Calder Game? A: Lots of questions that weren't in their minds before they picked up the book, such as: Can life itself be seen as a mobile? How does context change how you see, whether you're looking at art or yourself or another person? What does it mean to be "foreign"? How can art be freed? Does it need to be freed? Q: What type of research did you do for The Calder Game? A: I visited and stayed in Woodstock, England, three times, read lots on the history of the town and on Blenheim, ate every kind of Cadbury chocolate, read many books about Alexander Calder and saw as much of his work as possible, read as much about Banksy and his art as I could find, and did a ton of research on hedge mazes, including getting lost in a number of massive, prickly ones in England. Research is a great excuse for having adventures. Q: Why did you choose a small town in England as the setting for The Calder Game? A: After completing a book tour in England a couple of years ago, my husband and I rented a car and drove around the Cotswolds. We stumbled on Woodstock, and suddenly I knew that Calder, Petra, and Tommy should go there, too. I hadn't planned to write a book set outside of the United States, but Woodstock had a maze of just the right size, and a small community that kids could navigate on their own. It just felt perfect. Q: Had you always planned to write a third book about Calder, Petra, and Tommy? A: No, I didn't plan these three mysteries way ahead of time. For each of the three, I've had a moment when I just knew that book had to be written, isn't that odd? I'm an intuitive person, and I kind of wait for that "green light" feeling inside, then get to work. Q: Is there a particular character in The Calder Game that you identify with the most? A: It's hard to say…maybe Petra. I've been making mobile-poems, sometimes just in my imagination, since I was a teenager. And I understand Petra's way of doing things. Q: In The Calder Game, you introduce a controversial artist named Banksy. Why did you decide to weave him into the story? A: When I first stumbled on Banksy's art, in a newspaper article, I was so excited. He's both fearless and generous in the big questions he asks about art, and his ideas are so marvelously free. Plus, he's managed to protect his privacy-the public still doesn't know what he looks like. How cool is that? Q: While most of your characters are fictional, is it true that there's one particular four-legged character in The Calder Game who is in fact based on someone in your life? A: Absolutely. Our old cat, Pummie, is real -- personality, shape, and all. He died just as I was finishing the book, at age 19. Everyone in the family misses him dreadfully. Q: Your books are popular with both boys and girls. Is that something you were trying to achieve? A: Yes. Having a son and daughters, and having taught school for many years, I knew a few secrets about the very real differences between boys and girls. And I don't mean stereotypical differences-just the ways in which they communicate and find meaning in the world around them. Knowing those secrets helped a lot. Q: Your previous books, Chasing Vermeer and The Wright 3, have codes embedded in the text and art. How did you develop the code in The Calder Game? A: Well, I came up with the codes in the text, for all three books, and Brett Helquist did the imaginative coding in the illustrations. The code in The Calder Game came right from Alexander Calder himself. It kind of jumped out at me one night as I lay in bed, studying photographs of his mobiles before going to sleep. Q: What have been your favorite responses to Chasing Vermeer and The Wright 3? A: Oh, I've received many, many fabulous letters from kids. I do love it when kids tell me that my books have changed the way they see their world, and made them believe that their ideas are important. Kids have told me that these books inspire them. That makes me so happy. Q: As a former teacher and now a full-time writer, what do you find more demanding and/or rewarding -- teaching or writing? A: I loved teaching, it was very exciting and totally absorbing. And when I'm writing, I sometimes feel as though I'm still teaching -- facilitating adventures, exploring ideas, learning as I go. It's great to believe so deeply in your lifework, and to be able to do it in a way that feels true. I am very lucky. Q: To what extent did your own childhood, growing up in New York City, influence your writing? A: At the time I grew up in New York, I think kids had more freedom to get around the city on their own. Museums were a good place to hang out, a place away from small apartments. So the combination of independence and museums helped to form my way of seeing things, I'm sure. Q: You obviously spend a great deal of time developing, researching, and writing your stories. How do you spend your free time? A: My writing and my life aren't really that separate -- things that I like to think about generally find their way into what I write. But I love to travel and read, and try to remember to notice the world around me: the shape of a puddle or a crack in the sidewalk, the light coming through a tulip in my kitchen, the beauty of an egg or a perfect apple. Q: Are you working on anything now? A: As soon as I finished The Calder Game, I found I was already sifting and stirring, thinking about possibilities for the next book. Yes, I'm currently researching, and the next book will have less art but more controversy. I love to make trouble of the right kinds!
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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 4.5
( 24 )
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See All Sort by: Showing 1 – 20 of 24 Customer Reviews
  • Posted October 27, 2008

    more from this reviewer

    Reviewed by Tasha for

    Calder, Tommy, and Petra are back for another art-filled mystery. <BR/><BR/>It all starts when they take a field trip to the art museum to see the new exhibit featuring work by Alexander Calder. Even though their nasty and fun-sucking teacher tries to make the trip as miserable as possible, the three friends manage to find great inspiration and fascination in Alexander Calder's work. <BR/><BR/>Before long, Calder's dad invites him on a trip to England with him. Calder is super excited about the opportunity and learns that the town they're staying in is home to one of Alexander Calder's sculptures, The Minotaur. When Calder and his dad arrive in the small town, they find that not everyone is as excited about the sculpture as Calder is -- and quite a few people want it gone. <BR/><BR/>While Calder's dad is off at his seminars all day, Calder starts exploring the town and even goes to the famous Blenheim Palace gardens and maze. This is the ultimate place for Calder as he loves puzzles and mazes. One night, though, both Calder and the sculpture go missing.....a coincidence... maybe? When Calder doesn't show up after a couple of nights, his worry-stricken father brings in some back-up, Petra and Tommy. Together they will try and solve the mystery of where Calder is and what happened to the sculpture. <BR/><BR/>As always, Blue Balliett has created an intricately woven story which takes art, mystery, and friendship and turns it into one heck of a book. What's especially nice about THE CALDER GAME is that you don't necessarily have to have read the other books in the series (CHASING VERMEER and THE WRIGHT 3) to understand what's going on; while it would be nice, this story is complete on its own. <BR/><BR/>While I really liked this book, I'm not sure it was quite as good as the first, which often happens, but it was still really good. I liked all of the twists and turns in the mystery and it was fun trying to figure out what happened. I loved the underlying art theme, which made the book very interesting. I definitely think that it takes a certain type of person to want to read this book, as there is a lot of art talk, which I love, but others may not. All in all, I really enjoyed THE CALDER GAME and look forward to more in the series. <BR/><BR/>One last note! The illustrations in this book, while sparse, were incredible. I thought they really added to the story and I loved them.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted March 26, 2013


    The book is grea i the great blue baliat

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  • Anonymous

    Posted February 19, 2013

    Teach is reading it out loud

    My teacher is reading it out loud i a wonderful book i am new at my school

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 26, 2013


    Blue Balliett has made a third book in the Calder series!! In this book, Calder and his dad fly to England for a little father-son bonding time. Sounds innocent, right? Well, no. When they get to England, they find an Alexander Calder sculpture. It's not supposed to be there. Then Calder goes missing with the sculpture!!! Pentominoes are in here too. I recommend this to any reader in fourth grade or up(including adults)to this series. I do have to say though, if you read Chasing Vermeer and The Wright Three first, it makes a whole lot more sense.~Etalien

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  • Posted October 13, 2010

    Great! But not the best.

    This book is a great book along with the others. But his one has a less than creative ending than the others. I highly recomend you buy this book its is great for 10+. All the books are very complex and never get boring. READ THEM ALL!

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  • Posted May 31, 2009

    more from this reviewer

    9 Year Old Son Loved This Book

    My son has read all books by Blue Baillett. He said this was a good story. With all her books, you learn a little history and geography along the way.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted September 6, 2008


    This book is great! If you liked Chasing Vermeer, then you will love this book!

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  • Anonymous

    Posted June 4, 2008

    Incredible Book

    I fell in love with the first two of Blue's books. It combines the two things I love. Mystery/Suspense and Art. This one is no exception. An another incredible book.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted May 27, 2008

    Another exciting adventure!

    This is yet another great adventure. If you liked Chasing Vermeer and Wright 3 then you will love this book. Excellent mystery, clues, and fun.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted May 10, 2008

    The Outstanding Blue

    This book is the most mysterious and wonderful book I have ever read.It has kept me involved and has made me keep on reading it. Beautifully written.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted April 9, 2008

    The Best Book EVER!

    Blue has published yet another wonderful book for all ages that has education, wit, and twists and turns. The only bad part is that there isn't really a AHA moment in the end.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted March 3, 2008

    Best Book Ive Ever Read!

    Blue Balliet is an outstanding writer, she helps make the book rich and interesting. It was Marvelous and recommend it for all ages!

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