21 February 2011

Chasing Vermeer by Blue Balliett

Chasing Vermeer is not your typical mystery.  To love this book, you need to love quirky characters and schools that are not quite typical.  Luckily, I am a fan of both of these things.  Another element about this book that I found particularly nice was that it was a  mystery that ... actually requires detective work! In a lot of middle grade and young adult mysteries I have read lately, there is a lot of luck involved, a lot of stumbling across clues, a lot of providential happenstance.  I felt that in Chasing Vermeer Balliett did an excellent job of creating characters who were smart and used their brains to seek out answers.  Sure, there is going to be a little bit of happenstance helping every mystery along, but this one was a little more reminiscence of true detective mysteries like Holmes and Poirot.  

Without giving anything away, Petra and Calder are two students at a school on a university campus.  Their teacher is very in to letting them explore their own interests and designing their own learning experiences.  When a famous Vermeer painting not only goes missing, but is in danger, Petra and Calder dive into the mystery with enthusiasm and a little bit of adventure.  

I think that this book will appear to a lot of different types of readers.  The mystery crowd, obviously, will be shoe-ins for enjoying this title.  Calder's math and logic focused perspective could draw in readers who would normally rather solve a sudoku puzzle than pick up a book.  Additionally, it is a rare book that can equally capture the interests of the mathletes and artists amongst middle school readers - but the art history elements of this story definitely appealed to me and made me want to go out and learn a little more about Vermeer.

Excellent job all around, Balliett.  I'm looking forward to reading The Wright Three next.


  1. Check out the author's website at blueballiettbooks.com. It provides a lot of background info on the locales she has used for her books, including Chasing Vermeer, The Wright 3, The Calder Game, and The Danger Box. Enjoy.

  2. What a great resource! Thanks for sharing. I will be passing this site along to some of my students, for sure.