Chasing Vermeer

By Blue Balliett, Brett Helquist (illustrator),

Book cover of Chasing Vermeer

Book description

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 inexplicable occurences bring Petra Andalee and Calder Pillay together, strange things start to happen- seemingly unrelated events connect, an eccentric old woman seeks their…

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Why read it?

4 authors picked Chasing Vermeer as one of their favorite books. Why do they recommend it?

This book is a modern classic and no wonder – delightful characters, a twisty-turny mystery, and best of all: art. The way Balliett introduces kids to the world of art through puzzles, codes, wordplay, is clever and thrilling and had me completely entranced. The world of art theft is both thrilling and chilling, and this book takes us both places.

Letters from unknown senders always spark my curiosity. And books about stolen art are my jam. Chasing Vermeer brings three strangers together when they all receive a letter asking for help to solve the mystery of a stolen Vermeer painting. But, they can’t go to the authorities or they could be in grave danger. This book is perfect for puzzle lovers and code-breaking aficionados who along with Petra and Calder will solve pentominoes to receive clues that will solve the puzzle.   

Balliett’s novel had me Googling the life and art of Johannes Vermeer and searching for museums where I could see his work. This book is so much fun to read and decipher, with hidden code writing, mysterious letters, quirky parents, a strange old lady and an inventive teacher, any of whom may or may not be involved in the mystery of a stolen Vermeer painting. It’s a puzzle and an adventure, and a story of friendship. I always love when oddball characters join forces, and this book’s main characters—Calder and Petra--two kids who at first see each other as “weird”—…

From Diana's list on music, art and friendship.

This story takes place in my hometown of Chicago near the campus of the University of Chicago, and I’ve taken my own sixth-grade students on a field trip to a museum located right on this campus. Chasing Vermeer is about two sixth graders, Petra and Calder, who join forces when a painting by the artist Vermeer disappears. They have to solve a number of mathematical puzzles and connect a series of rather random events to see if they can uncover an international art scandal.

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