Chasing Vermeer

( 157 )

Overview

When a book of unexplainable occurrences brings Petra Andalee and Calder Pillay together, strange things start to happen: Seemingly unrelated events connect, an eccentric old woman seeks their company, and an invaluable Vermeer painting disappears. Before they know it, the two find themselves at the center of an international art scandal, where no one -- neighbors, parents, teachers -- is spared from suspicion. As Petra and Calder are drawn clue by clue into a mysterious labyrinth, they must draw on their powers ...
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Overview

When a book of unexplainable occurrences brings Petra Andalee and Calder Pillay together, strange things start to happen: Seemingly unrelated events connect, an eccentric old woman seeks their company, and an invaluable Vermeer painting disappears. Before they know it, the two find themselves at the center of an international art scandal, where no one -- neighbors, parents, teachers -- is spared from suspicion. As Petra and Calder are drawn clue by clue into a mysterious labyrinth, they must draw on their powers of intuition, their problem-solving skills, and their knowledge of Vermeer. Can they decipher a crime that has left even the FBI baffled? Blue Balliett's bewitching first novel is a puzzle, wrapped in a mystery, disguised as an adventure, and delivered as a work of art.

Winner of the 2005 Edgar Award for Best Juvenile

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Editorial Reviews

From Barnes & Noble
The Barnes & Noble Review
A puzzling art theft is solved by two sixth-grade sleuths in a first-rate first novel by Blue Balliett, illustrated by Series of Unfortunate Events artist Brett Helquist. Cut from similar cloth to The Da Vinci Code while harkening back to E. L. Konigsburg and Agatha Christie, Balliett's book follows young Petra Andalee and Calder Pillay as they piece together separate, seemingly disconnected events to locate The Lady Writing, a Vermeer painting that gets stolen en route to Chicago's Art Institute. Going on the theory that there are no coincidences, the two wonder about the link between their teacher's statements, Petra's dreams, a book Petra finds in the library, and other clues that set the reader guessing as to their significance as well. But after they learn of the culprit's aim to correct untruths about Vermeer's life and art -- which spurs them into full-throttle detective work -- the pieces all come together in a brilliant ending sure to make readers cheer, "Ah ha!" Infused with intrigue and Helquist's clever illustrations that include coded messages, Balliett's novel is a dynamic can't-miss that will get those brain cells firing as it satiates your appetite for intelligent, modern-day mystery. Matt Warner
From the Publisher

Voice of Youth Advocates
December 1, 2004

Mix classic artworks with crime? It seems to be a popular plot that makes its way here to a thriller for young readers. Two eccentric sixth graders at the University School find themselves in the middle of a major art theft. Who was Vermeer? What does Charles Fort have to do with it all? (He was real.) And why do Petra and Calder get clues about what has happened? Petra sees images that relate to the picture of the lady, and Calder's favorite game pieces, from pentominoes, give him clues. Their teacher, Miss Hussey, seems to be involved, as does elderly Mrs. Sharpe, and perhaps Calder's father. And then there is something odd about Mr. Watch from Powell's Bookstore. Calder's friend Tommy sends coded messages and then goes missing. Plenty of clues, wrong directions, speculation, and good guesses lead Petra and Calder on a sequence of adventures to find the art work before it is destroyed. This exciting romp will appeal to middle school readers and make them think about clues and even art. The adults are given good characterizations although the young people do not know whom to trust and perhaps get in a little deeper than they should. The ending comes a bit too quickly without enough evolution and there are a number of loose ends, but most readers will overlook this flaw for the fun. The illustrations by Helquist, of Lemony Snicket fame, contain hidden messages that present challenging puzzles to the reader.-Patricia Morrow.

Horn Book Magazine
July 1, 2004
(Intermediate) "Dear Friend: I would like your help in identifying a crime that is now centuries old." Sixth-grade classmates Petra Andalee and Calder Pillay are drawn into the mystery: a claim that some of the works attributed to Johannes Vermeer were not, in fact, painted by that seventeenth-century Dutch artist. Their investigation--fueled by the enigmatic behavior of their favorite teacher, a shared interest in unexplained phenomena, and a few mystical experiences of their own--uncovers a series of coincidences and connections that, like the pentomino set (a puzzle-like math tool) Calder carries in his pocket, fit together in often-unexpected patterns. And when Vermeer's A Lady Writing disappears while in transit from the National Gallery to the Art Institute of Chicago, Petra and Calder end up hunting for the missing painting right in their own neighborhood. The protagonists are smart and appealing, the prose style is agreeably quirky, and fans of puzzle-mysteries will enjoy cracking the codes presented within the text and hidden in Helquist's stylish black-and-white illustrations. But they may also be frustrated that such a heady, elaborately plotted novel comes to a weak resolution, as the answers to the mysteries are explained away in a too-hasty summation--and the villain turns out to be an offstage figure. The conclusion may be disappointing, but the chase to the end is entertaining. Copyright 2004 of The Horn Book, Inc. All rights reserved.

School Library Journal
July 1, 2004

Gr 5-8-Fans of Ellen Raskin's The Westing Game (Dutton, 1978) and E. L. Konigsburg's From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler (Turtleback, 1967) will welcome this novel about two classmates determined to solve the mystery of a missing painting. Brainy 12-year-olds Petra Andalee and Calder Pillay attend the University of Chicago Laboratory School where their teacher's unorthodox methods make learning an adventure. When Vermeer's A Lady Writing disappears on its way to exhibition at the Art Institute of Chicago, the two overcome their adolescent awkwardness and let their friendship bloom, pooling their talents to rescue the masterpiece and expose the thief. Many elements play a role in unraveling the secrets surrounding the crime: Calder's set of pentominoes; his encoded correspondence with his friend Tommy about a missing boy named Frog; and

The New York Times
Balliett, a first-time novelist, has taken the literary craze for intellectual sleuthing, which allows readers to feel smart and stuffed with information while not actually having to do any heavy academic lifting themselves, and combined it with a fidelity to old-fashioned trail-of-clues children's books, resulting in a novel about a stolen Vermeer painting that is suspenseful, exciting, charming and even unexpectedly moving.—Meg Wolitzer
From The Critics
Strange things are happening in Chicago, things that make sixth-graders Petra and Calder feel like they'd "fallen inside a puzzle and couldn't get out." Revolving around the theft of a priceless Vermeer painting, this roller-coaster ride of adventure and mystery offers a bounty of codes for readers to decipher and hidden messages in the illustrations. (Ages 8 to 12)
Child magazine's Best Children's Book Awards 2004
Publishers Weekly
"Puzzles nest within puzzles in this ingeniously plotted and lightly delivered first novel that, revolving around the heist of a Vermeer painting," PW said in a starred review. Ages 8-12. (May) Copyright 2005 Reed Business Information.
Children's Literature
When Vermeer's priceless painting, "A Lady Writing," disappears in transit to an exhibit in Chicago, two of Ms. Hussey's sixth-grade students are ready to do whatever they can to recover "the lady." Calder Pillay and Petra Andalee have discovered, in a used bookstore in their neighborhood near the University of Chicago, a book that documents strange occurrences and unexplained coincidences. And isn't it a strange occurrence that Petra has been having vivid dreams about that very picture—before she even knew it existed? And isn't it an unexplained coincidence that Ms. Hussey has given the class an assignment to explore the significance of letters—just as the art thief has delivered secret, cryptic letters to three unidentified individuals? Balliett's engrossing and engaging debut novel sets two bright, quirky, imaginative children on the path to a series of discoveries about the transformative power of great art, and the mysterious, mystical connections that link all of reality. It's no objection to her story that everything in it turns on coincidence heaped upon coincidence, for that is its point: that nothing is coincidence, that all events are part of some yet unexplained pattern. Helquist's haunting illustrations spin further mystery by containing coded messages for the reader to decipher. This is an unusual story that should appeal to all the Calders and Petras who know—or hope—that there is more to the universe than what can be rationally explained. 2004, Scholastic, Ages 8 to 12.
—Claudia Mills
School Library Journal
Gr 5-8-Fans of Ellen Raskin's The Westing Game (Dutton, 1978) and E. L. Konigsburg's From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler (Turtleback, 1967) will welcome this novel about two classmates determined to solve the mystery of a missing painting. Brainy 12-year-olds Petra Andalee and Calder Pillay attend the University of Chicago Laboratory School where their teacher's unorthodox methods make learning an adventure. When Vermeer's A Lady Writing disappears on its way to exhibition at the Art Institute of Chicago, the two overcome their adolescent awkwardness and let their friendship bloom, pooling their talents to rescue the masterpiece and expose the thief. Many elements play a role in unraveling the secrets surrounding the crime: Calder's set of pentominoes; his encoded correspondence with his friend Tommy about a missing boy named Frog; and Petra's intuitive communing with the woman in the painting, all augmented by the unusual ideas presented in a strange old book that Petra has found. Balliett also provides lots of plot twists and red herrings along the way. Helquist's atmospheric black-and-white illustrations add to the fun, incorporating clues to a secret message, the answer to which can be found on the publisher's Web site. Puzzles, codes, letters, number and wordplay, a bit of danger, a vivid sense of place, and a wealth of quirky characters enrich the exciting, fast-paced story that's sure to be relished by mystery lovers.-Marie Orlando, Suffolk Cooperative Library System, Bellport, NY Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
Art, intrigue, and plenty of twists and turns make this art mystery a great read. Petra Andalee and Calder Pillay set out to find the connection between their teacher (a freewheeling constructivist teacher), the eccentric woman in their neighborhood, the bookstore owner, and an international art thief. Balliett intersperses fascinating information about Johannes Vermeer and his paintings throughout the two friends' quest to solve the mystery-a mystery layered with pentominoes (a mathematical tool consisting of 12 pieces), puzzling clues, and suspicious strangers. Helquist's detailed black-and-white chapter illustrations hold hidden messages, clues related to the pentominoes, and more puzzles. Fans of E.L. Konigsburg's From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler or Ellen Raskin's The Westing Game will find equal pleasure in this debut by a talented writer. (Fiction. 11-14)
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780439372947
  • Publisher: Scholastic, Inc.
  • Publication date: 6/1/2004
  • Pages: 272
  • Sales rank: 80,208
  • Age range: 8 - 12 Years
  • Lexile: 770L (what's this?)
  • Product dimensions: 5.75 (w) x 8.65 (h) x 0.96 (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 www.blueballiettbooks.com.

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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Read an Excerpt

When a book of unexplainable occurrences brings Petra Andalee & Calder Pillay together, strange things start to happen: seemingly unrelated events connect, an eccentric old woman seeks their company and an invaluable Vermeer painting disappears. Before they know it, the two find themselves at the center of an international art scandal. As Petra and Calder are drawn clue by clue into a mysterious labyrinth they must draw on their powers of intuition, their skills at problem solving, and their knowledge of Vermeer. Can they decipher a crime that has left even the FBI baffled?
Read More Show Less

Table of Contents

About Pentominoes and About This Story xi
About the Artwork: A Challenge to the Reader xiii
Chapter 1 Three Deliveries 1
Chapter 2 The Letter is Dead 6
Chapter 3 Lost in the Art 18
Chapter 4 Picasso's Lie 35
Chapter 5 Worms, Snakes, and Periwinkles 43
Chapter 6 The Geographer's Box 50
Chapter 7 The Man on the Wall 61
Chapter 8 A Halloween Surprise 76
Chapter 9 The Blue Ones 81
Chapter 10 Inside the Puzzle 90
Chapter 11 Nightmare 99
Chapter 12 Tea at Four 112
Chapter 13 X the Experts 127
Chapter 14 Flashing Lights 134
Chapter 15 Murder and Hot Chocolate 144
Chapter 16 A Morning in the Dark 154
Chapter 17 What Happens Now? 167
Chapter 18 A Bad Fall 174
Chapter 19 The Shock on the Stairs 188
Chapter 20 A Maniac 198
Chapter 21 Looking and Seeing 205
Chapter 22 Twelves 214
Chapter 23 Help! 226
Chapter 24 The Pieces 236
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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 4
( 157 )
Rating Distribution

5 Star

(94)

4 Star

(32)

3 Star

(12)

2 Star

(9)

1 Star

(10)

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See All Sort by: Showing 1 – 20 of 157 Customer Reviews
  • Posted January 29, 2011

    more from this reviewer

    Great Book!

    This was a good book, but I thought it was a little confusing in some parts. You have to take your time with this book, and make sure you understand it. Other than that, it was great.

    5 out of 5 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted May 10, 2010

    I Also Recommend:

    Chasing Vermeer

    This is a great book, and a thrilling adventure. You will be glued to the book once you start. It is great if you are doing mysteries in the classroom or just enjoy reading mysteries. Chasing Vermeer is meant for kids not really adults, but adults will enjoy it also. The character descriptions are great and enables you to visualize them in your head and the author does not give away the end so it surprises you.. If you enjoy this book you would defiantly enjoy the rest in the series (The Wright 3 and The Calder Game). Which are just as good if not better than Chasing Vermeer.

    5 out of 5 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Posted February 1, 2010

    I Also Recommend:

    Great Mystery!

    I found this book to be very interesting! For anyone who enjoys mysteries I would highly advise you to read this book! Once I started reading this book I could not put it down because it was so interesting!!!!!!!!!!!!Blue Balliett did a great job!!!!!!

    5 out of 5 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Posted September 23, 2012

    I would give this book two stars because the author did not expl

    I would give this book two stars because the author did not explain much as you read and I felt confused at times. Chasing Vermeer is about a boy and girl who are united by strange, unexplainable occurrences want to find a missing Vermeer painting. Along the way, they are baffled by coincidences with their teacher and neighbor. I would recommend this book to 5th and 6th graders because they could relate the most to this book. Also, they would most likely be more interested than I was.

    2 out of 4 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted January 15, 2008

    The Most suspenceful book in a life time!!:

    This is a great indescribable book! It invovles a famous painting getting stolen and these two seldom kids'Petra Andalee and Calder Pillay', attempting to solve the case of this spectacular mystery! It has you super glued to the edge of your seat, with all the events and happenings in this novel. It is DEFENITELY one of the best books of all time! It is pretty difficult to please me, but this book really has!

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted November 29, 2007

    Petra and the pentominoes

    When a famous panting gets stolen two kids go on a undercover mission. Petra and her friend are the only two people who really even care about where it is. When they start looking deeper they stumble onto a mystery they wish they hadn't gotten into. Then the kids at school start making fun of them when the kids at school don't even know what is really going on. When Petra's friend Starts paying closer to his pentominoes and less to what really does make sense everything starts to click. I liked this book because it was very surprising in the end and a very well written book. I wouldn't change anything because i thought it was a very good mystery and I like how it surprises you in the end. I¿d recommend it to mystery lovers because it keeps the person who stole the painting a mystery till the very end. I would give this book five stars. ZN Mystery Chasing Vermeer # of pages: 254 By:Blue Balliett, Brett Helquist

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted December 29, 2007

    amazing book for picky reader

    this was an amazing and supencful book. I could not put it down and highly recomend it to anyone. The the main kids are great and you come to like them. The plot is great and it keeps you wanting to read it from beginning to end. I needed to get the sequal right away.

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted July 13, 2007

    A reviewer

    A MUST READ! This is an amazing book! Every chapter really captured my attention and created clear pictures in my mind. The plot superb and took you on a roller coaster ride. I couldn't put it down.

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted September 9, 2007

    So Good I Read It In Two Days!!!!!

    This was a great book! I first got the book in fourth grade, but I read the first 10 pages, then put it back down. Now, almost three years later, I wanted something new to read, so I decided to give it another try, and what do you know! I loved it, and can't wait to read the sequal!

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted May 6, 2007

    Outstanding book!!!!

    This book is the most nailbiting mystery I've ever read. It has an understandable vocabulary as well, which lets me fly through the pages. The way the whole book was written was just,perfect. Perfect.

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted March 4, 2007

    One of The Best Mysteries Ever Written

    Chasing Vermeer is one of the BEST mystery books I've ever read. You don't have to be an art lunatic to enjoy this mystery woven around the theft of A Lady Writing, by Johannes Vermeer. It has a very complicated plot, made better by many, many plot twists. Very good writing (it's not nearly as poor as people say it is) helps you really get a good picture of what's going on in your head. You can literally see what Calder and Petra, the main characters, are seeing. This book is a good title for you if you like mysteries. I would also recommend it to people that are interested in strange coincidences.

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted December 13, 2006

    SCORE!!!

    This book was off the hook. If you like suspenseful or mysteries you can almost do on your own books you will absoulutley love this book. It isnt much about art it is more of a mystery.

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted February 9, 2007

    GREAT MYSTERY!

    This is a great mystery! There will be character changes though.This is an E ( For Everyone). This is such a good 260 page novel, It's been said it could be a motion picture!

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted December 28, 2006

    Chasing Vermeer

    I thoght it was a great book.I would like to read it again. I liked it because it made you feel like you were in the story too and that you had to figure out the mistery too. I think that other kids should read this book too. I think the age level for this book is 10-12.

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted April 2, 2009

    A mystery book that you'll just gobble up!

    This book is the best book ever! It keeps you engaged and wanting to find out what happends next. I couldn't put this book down when I read it. It's a great read for grades 4-8th grade. I read it my 7th grade year and I still love it. One of my favorites for sure.

    The next book in the series is The Wright 3 and that is to die for, but I love Chasing Vermeer a little better. Blue Balliett uses such great descriptions makes you get to really know Petra, Calder, and all the other important characters.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted March 11, 2009

    more from this reviewer

    I Also Recommend:

    this is my all time favorite book!

    This is one of the best books I have ever read! My sister was reading it because we were in the car on a long trip and then she wanted me to read it to her. After I started reading it I could not put it down. I had seen this book in the library and the cover made it look lame to me so now I never judge a book by it's cover.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted February 11, 2009

    I can't say enough about this book! Actually, by mistake I purchased the audiobook and it turned out to be the best mistake I've ever made! My children and I listened to the book during the summer, WHEREVER we went.

    Each time we got into the car last summer to go on a day trip we listened to the story. It was exciting and interesting. I have three children, ages 5, 9, and 11. There was something in it for everyone, including myself. I found myself looking to plan long rides just to listen to more of the story!<BR/>The way the story starts gets you immediately interested. The kids minds were quickly engaged and challenged. We found ourselves completely immersed in the mystery, trying to figure things out. The kids could relate to the characters; they found them fascinating, yet regular.<BR/>We had such a great "experience" with this book. I even made a project after we completed the book- We took a trip to the library to check out books with Vermmers' art work in them. We brought them home and found the art pieces that were described in the book and talked about Vermeer. Then we painted our own art work on small canvases I picked up at an arts and crafts store.<BR/>I have recommended this book/ audio to all of my friends and to the school that my children attend.<BR/>Unfortunately, I have been unable to find the next book in the series on audio. However, I bought the book to read aloud to my kids. I just can't drive while we listen!!!

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted February 3, 2009

    I Also Recommend:

    Art with a twist

    This book makes you think of art in a new and incredible way! You'll be cracking codes and sreaching art right along with the characters. We did this book for a mother daughter bookclub and everyone enjoyed the book so much and the activites that go along with it!! It is a very thrilling and grasping book for children and adults. I would diffently recommend it.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted October 27, 2008

    more from this reviewer

    Reviewed by Jennifer Wardrip, aka "The Genius" for TeensReadToo.com

    I think the fact that I had never heard of CHASING VERMEER before I picked up a copy at the bookstore helped in my enjoyment of it. After I finished reading the book, I read with interest other reviews, which is usually my habit after I've written my own review. I like to see what other readers thought of a story, or how similar--or, in some cases, dissimilar--my own thoughts and feelings are from other readers. I was surprised to see that many had touted CHASING VERMEER as a THE DA VINCI CODE for the younger set. I was surprised by the supposed hype that the book had generated. I was surprised, in fact, by the way I was caught up in the story myself. Although I can't comment on it's similarity to THE DA VINCI CODE (I'm one of probably only a handful of humans on the planet who hasn't read it!), I can say that CHASING VERMEER is a mixture of mystery, art, precociousness, and ingenuity that made it a joy to read. <BR/><BR/>Petra Andalee and Calder Pillay live down the street from each other in Hyde Park, share the same birthday, and have as the same sixth-grade teacher, the wonderful Ms. Hussey, at University School. It's rare to find a teacher who allows her students to have a say in what material they will cover, and both Petra and Calder are aware of this. When Ms. Hussey asks the students to discuss with an adult a letter that changed their life, most students are baffled. When the assignment fails, Ms. Hussey instead takes them on a field trip to the Art Institute--where the worlds of Petra, Calder, Ms. Hussey, and Vermeer collide. <BR/><BR/>Who was Vermeer? An artist, it turns out, who has several paintings attributed to him that some members of the general public don't agree were done by the painter himself. Suddenly, Petra and Calder's world is filled with a strange book entitled "Lo!", a painting known as "A Lady Writing," an old lady named Mrs. Sharpe, a man who owns a bookstore, a set of twelve pentominoes, a bunch of frogs, and a few bags of blue M&M's. <BR/><BR/>CHASING VERMEER is, quite simply, an art mystery in the style of Nancy Drew or The Hardy Boys, but more interesting and complex. This is a delightful read, and I can't wait to read THE WRIGHT 3, the next story in the adventures of Petra and Calder.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted September 21, 2008

    Recommended Children's Book

    Always look in the tiniest places because what you're looking at may not always be as it seems. In the book Chasing Vermeer by Blue Balliet, two kids set out on their own , figuring out clues to help them find a painting that has suddenly disappeared. This story takes place in Chicago. In the beginning of the story, Calder and Petra, the main characters, were just acquaintances, when they realized that mysterious things interest them both. They begin to try and solve the mystery of the painting. Their search for clues to find the stolen painting lead them in many directions: and old lady in the neighborhood, a famous bookstore, their teacher, a book of weird things that happened a long time ago, and series of odd coincidences. The closer they get to finding the painting and the culprit, the stranger and more difficult the clues become. I would recommend this book to Middle school students, and older elememtary school students. I would give this book a 9 out of 10, because most of the book was fantanstic, although the vocabulary was at a very low level. For the most part, I definetly enjoyed the novel and I hope that other people who read this book will enjoy as much as I did.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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See All Sort by: Showing 1 – 20 of 157 Customer Reviews

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