Chasing Vermeer

by Blue Balliett

Hardcover, 2004



Local notes

Fic Bal






Scholastic Press (2004), Edition: 1st, Hardcover, 272 pages


When strange and seemingly unrelated events start to happen and a precious Vermeer painting disappears, eleven-year-olds Petra and Calder combine their talents to solve an international art scandal.

Original publication date


Physical description

272 p.; 8.64 inches

User reviews

LibraryThing member morigeau
Weak mystery that didn't live up to the hype "Da Vinci Code for kids." The mystery is solved through convenient waves of intuition instead of through the clues the Petra and Calder gather. Most of the actual clues need to be explained to the children at the end to fill in big holes in the story.
LibraryThing member whitreidtan
I had been coveting this children's book since it was released in hardcover, trying to convince my children that they wanted to read it, thereby granting myself permission to buy it. I haven't managed to convince them yet but when it arrived on the table at the school book sale, it was my duty to
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buy it to support the school library, right? And now that I've read it, I will be pushing the kids even harder to read it. A truly delightful and inventive tale, this had overtones of From the Mixed Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler or The Westing Game. Calder Pillay is mourning the loss of his best friend, who has moved out of state, when a strange book about unexplained happenings brings Calder together with Petra, a fellow student with a keen eye for coincidences. Petra and Calder build a friendship as they try to unravel the several mysteries: that of an elderly neighbor, that of their teacher's sudden nervousness and distractability, and of course, that of the missing Vermeer painting to which they feel a kinship connection. As the mysteries unfold, Calder and Petra race to find the painting before it is too late as they also seek to explain the other more minor mysteries. The plot abounds with leads, intuitions, and wrong turnings and the reader delights in following these endearing, slightly eccentric kids as they work their way through the clues, both intentionally and unintentionally uncovered. Everything about the book is meticulously done and the puzzle pieces are slotted together so expertly that I only figured out the connections slightly ahead of the characters, which either points to my thickheadedness or their genius (or both). But the true genius here is Balliett, in drawing such an appealing and engrossing story for both boys and girls, one that celebrates intelligence and friendship and perserverence and all those things that can easily cause a less accomplished book to come across as moralistic and dull. This book is anything but that and should be recommended to any and all children in your orbit.
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LibraryThing member BridgetteHarmon
Chasing Vermeer is an intricately woven tapestry of clues, coincidence, and curiosity, with fascinating information about the great artist Vermeer and the work of Charles Fort. I liked that it centered on two kids who were not the most likable or popular in their class; it was an interesting look
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at people I didn't really understand when I was that age. I also learned quite a bit about Vermeer's art. However, the book was unfortunately preachy and pedantic about the method of constructivist teaching; in the book, it was obvious that the ONLY effective way of teaching was by letting the students explore whatever they were interested in, and that following an actual curriculum was boring and unprogressive. Other than the overt leftivism, however, I thoroughly enjoyed the characters and the puzzle that the children and the reader had to think through in order to solve the mystery.
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LibraryThing member KarriesKorner
This winner of the Edgar Allen Poe Award is a very interesting story, and will keep the reader guessing "who-dunit" until the very end. Calder and Petra are neighborhood friends who are intrigued by their teacher's passionate discussions about the artist Vermeer. Suddenly a they find themselves
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involved in a series of coincidences that land them in the middle of an international art theft. Piecing together information, they begin to get closer to finding The Lady and who stole her.
There is a level of intelligence and intrigue in this book that will keep readers guessing until the end. The author cleverly educates the reader about Vermeer without beating the information into the ground. At times Petra and Calder are slightly unbelievable as 6th graders because they appear to be years beyond their age, but overall they are likable and engaging.
If teachers are looking for a great read-aloud, this would be a terrific read. There are many topics that could be discussed as a curriculum tie-in, and the students will come away from this book being more knowledgeable about a famous painter.
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LibraryThing member heidialice
A series of strange coincidences brings Petra and Calder together to solve the mystery of a missing Vermeer painting.

A fun romp through the art world and an engaging mystery. People have compared it to the Westing Game, which led to some of my disappointment since it is nowhere near as intricate,
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and most of its coincidences are just that: coincidences and red herrings. Still, a fun read, and a neat premise. Would appeal more to younger teens, since the characters are 11/12.
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LibraryThing member smpenni
A Vermeer painting is stolen. Petra and Calder, two bright, quirky sixth-graders, come together to solve the crime that has the whole world baffled. Going beyond a simple mystery, this story explores the meaning of art and the nature of coincidence. Chasing Vermeer will have middle grade readers
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scrutinizing art books as they try to solve the mystery along with Calder and Petra. In an added bonus, artist Brett Helquist has also hidden a secret pentomino message in several of the book’s illustrations for readers to decode. An auspicious and wonderfully satisfying debut that will leave no young detective clueless
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LibraryThing member delphica
(#19 in the 2009 Book Challenge)

Well, this was enervating. Children's novel, mystery, set in Chicago. It might be especially fun for Chicago folks -- the kids in the story go to the Lab School at the university, and a lot of the action takes place on the U. of Chicago campus. The characters were
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great and believable and the plot was pretty good: a Vermeer painting is stolen while it is en route to the Art Institute, and the thief publishes a series of manifestos in the newspaper. The kids combine what they read in the paper with some clues they stumble upon ... and then they also come across a Charles Fort book and they get some additional insights by keeping track of a series of coincidences they experience. The Fortean thing is a huge theme, and I'm okay with that in a fictional work. The thing that got me was the profound intellectual hinkiness at the core of the story's foundation. It's saying to the reader "if you would only THINK FOR YOURSELF instead of listening to authority, you would agree with me." That's both sloppy and cloying.

Grade: C+
Recommended: Maybe ... I think kids who are strong readers will have fun with the mystery and the nest of puzzles within the mystery (it's one of those books that includes codes and clues in the illustrations and all that). There's a lot to be annoyed by, too.
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LibraryThing member SueDLeatherman
Raining Frogs, Secret Codes, a Lost Vermeer Painting, and Pentominoes – What Do They Have in Common?

Calder Pillay and Petra Andalee, students of Ms Hussey’s sixth grade class, discover that many strange things are happening around their neighborhood and that their teacher, Ms. Hussy, seems to
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be involved!

A valuable Vermeer painting disappears and then Calder’s friend, Tommy, sends a secret coded message to Calder about another strange disappearance. Before they know it, Calder and Petra are drawn into a tangled web of clues that baffles even the FBI.

I love Ms. Balliet’s powerful descriptions of people, places, and events in this story! She challenges the reader to dig deep and learn about the missing art treasure. Who is Vermeer? What is an art forgery? Ms. Balliet invites the reader to solve the secret codes and even suggests that Calder’s pentominoes have a certain quality of intuition.

Just like the famous detectives Sherlock Holmes and Hercule Poirot, Calder and Petra must use their powers of intuition and problem-solving skills to help them decipher this mysterious puzzle. Each clue leads to more questions and only by reading to the very end of the story will the entire mystery be solved. “The game is afoot!”
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LibraryThing member dsbs
I love coincidences. I spend a great deal of time getting excited over the smallest patterns and puzzles and similarities of seemingly unrelated events. So I get where this book is coming from, I really do. But in fiction, there is something else I enjoy even more: answers. I love everything to be
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wrapped up, all the interconnectedness to be explained. In life, this comes across as, well, life, but in fiction, it comes across as laziness. And while I admire the originality of Balliett's debut novel, I still wish it could decide whether it was fantasy or fiction based in a real life world - don't give me a 'mystery' and have the 'sleuths' solve it through dreams and psychic connections. Books like Holes, and even Time Traveler's Wife, satisfy me far more with their well thought out, carefully crafted puzzles, rather than this novel, marketed as a thriller/mystery for tweens, but which is really more of a(n interesting) meditation on coincidences and patterns, and the meaning of art in our lives. Which is still good, but, you know, not a mystery.
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LibraryThing member DLVLibrary
If you want to read a children's book about mysteries in the art world, pick up From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler by E.L. Konigsburg. The author of Chasing Vermeer throws in an assortment of coincidences, a lot of her own observations on art and life, and tries to build a plot
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around these abstract ideas. Characters come and go with no development. It just doesn't have any appeal for the age level she's writing for. I could never "sell" this one to a group of sixth-graders. I think it received good notices and even won some awards, but I can't imagine why. Forced, unnatural dialogue and a plot to match.
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LibraryThing member cbl_tn
The author uses a mystery involving a missing Vermeer painting to teach young readers how to think about and appreciate art.
LibraryThing member missmath144
I liked the general feel of the story and the search for patterns. However, the clues were unrealistic, based on feelings or psychic intuition rather than logic. The same story with more realistic clues would have made for a fantastic story.

Also, I didn't like the reader's voices for children (who
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were the protagonists).
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LibraryThing member AScheu
I like the premise of the story, and the characters Petra and Calder were well created and I enjoyed reading about them but about halfway through the book logic and deduction takes a hike. The clues that really solve the mystery seems flimsy and doesn't seem like it teaches good deductive reasoning.
LibraryThing member anneofia
A lot of coincidences happen in this amusing mystery story. Two sixth graders decide to hunt down the thief when a Vermeer painting disappears. Before they know it, they are involved in an international art scandal. They use their wits, their intuition, and a set of pentominoes, as well as putting
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their problem-solving skills to work, to try to solve the case. The moral seems to be: Life is like a set of pentominoes: you just never know how the pieces are going to connect! The illustrations in this book are an integral part of the story, and they very much add to it..
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LibraryThing member mysterymax
This book was being checked out a lot at our library by the youth, so I decided to read it. I didn't expect it to be as satisfying a mystery as an adult mystery would be, I knew I was reading a young persons book. So I am surprised at the number of people that "didn't find the mystery
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What I enjoyed most was the fact that it contained ideas and things to (hopefully) think about. For example, Petra thinks that perhaps humans need questions more than they need answers... or she wonders why yellow is a happy color or whether ideas and thoughts have a life of their own. She also begins to understand that Fort is suggesting the possibly that the world changes if/when we change our view of what we are seeing. These little gems don't take over the story, and the mystery, but they are there like little seeds waiting to sprout in a person's mind.

I am going to read the rest of the books in the series and I am hoping that this holds true in the rest of the books.
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LibraryThing member SeriousGrace
It's a great mystery for kids and adults alike. Petra Andalee and her new found friend Calder Pillay find themselves in the middle of a mystery complete with codes and the crime of stolen art. It starts off with Petta and Calder as classmates with a weird assignment: find letters in art. Both Petra
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and Calder call the other "weird" and can't imagine ever being friends, but soon weird coincidences bring them together to solve a mystery involving an old woman, the FBI and an international art scandal.
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LibraryThing member cjfox73
Bright and intriguing, this story is gripping and complex. Kids will adore the hidden messages and meanings and twists and turns the book takes.
LibraryThing member mariaft
When seemingly unrelated and strange events start to happen and a precious Vermeer painting disappears, eleven-year-olds Petra and Calder combine their talents to solve an international art scandal--the theft of Vermeer's A Lady Writing. The culprit? Calder's friend Tommy's stepfather.

Thumbs up!
LibraryThing member lesserbrain
The Da Vinci Code for middle schools? Yes, and a great read for art fans of all ages. Ms. Balliett's book will have you searching art archives on the internet to gaze upon the wonderful painting of Vermeer!
LibraryThing member MSLMC
This book is reminiscent of the Westing Game where the reader is compelled to solve the crime along side of the protagonists.
There are codes to break and clues to solve in the illustrations. A lot of fun.
LibraryThing member library-lisa
I really enjoyed this book! It was a great little twist on your typical mystery becuase the reader must use the picture clues to help solve the mystery. It was a great lesson in thinking outside the box.
LibraryThing member SunnySD
A mysterious letter, a school assignment, and the theft of a famous painting intersect like puzzle pieces, pulling together two slightly nerdy sixth graders, a crotchety old woman, a sixth grade teacher, and ultimately the general public as everyone speculates -- just who could have stolen
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Vermeer's A Lady Writing.

Chasing Vermeer has a little something for almost everyone, and as the story unfolds the pieces of the puzzle interlock in interesting combination like pentominoes from Calder's pocket. Suspense and intrigue and math galore, and for lovers of puzzles and code, Tommy's untranslated letters and the message hidden in the book's illustrations are an added bonus.
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LibraryThing member knielsen83
A really fun adventure that starts when three mysterious letters appear along with the stealing of a famous Vermeer painting. Two kids befriend each other and start to see patterns not only in the mystery they are trying to solve, but in their own daily lives.
LibraryThing member trisha1
Right from the beginning this book draws the reader in by showing a map, describing pentominoes and discussing clues to pick up within the artwork shown in the book. An intriguing read for those who like mysteries, and accessible to a reluctant audience with pages presented with more space around
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text, and the illustrations sprinkled within each chapter. This would coincide well with a trip to the Art Institute in Chicago.
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LibraryThing member pencil_nerd
Wow! where to begin? This is definitely my all time favorite mystery I've ever read. I loved this book and I've reread it couple of times, and even though it's very interactive, I never seem to get tired of it. I read it in first read it 3rd grade, and I was writing paper book reviews for it in 6th
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grade. I highly recommend this to people in elementary school especially, but my mom really enjoyed it, so I guess I would recommend it to generally anyone. The plot is so creative and there are so many twists and turns you never fail to end up surprised, even if you've read it 2 times before. It incorporates art into everything and makes you very very paranoid about coincidences for awhile, I still don't think I've gotten over that part... But even if you don't like it, you won't regret reading it because the knowledge you earn from that book is incredible!
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