|Author:||Blue Balliett, Brett Helquist|
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.
In the classic tradition of E.L. Konigsburg’s From the Mixed-up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler, debut author Blue Balliett introduces readers to another pair of precocious kids on an artful quest full of patterns, puzzles, and the power of blue M&Ms. Eleven year old Petra and Calder may be in the same sixth grade class, but they barely know each other. It’s only after a near collision during a museum field trip that they discover their shared worship of art, their teacher Ms. Hussey, and the blue candy that doesn’t melt in your hands. Their burgeoning friendship is strengthened when a creative thief steals a valuable Vermeer painting en route to Chicago, their home town. When the thief leaves a trail of public clues via the newspaper, Petra and Calder decide to try and recover the painting themselves. But tracking down the Vermeer isn’t easy, as Calder and Petra try to figure out what a set of pentominos (mathematical puzzle pieces), a mysterious book about unexplainable phenomena and a suddenly very nervous Ms. Hussey have to do with a centuries old artwork. When the thief ups the ante by declaring that he or she may very well destroy the painting, the two friends know they have to make the pieces of the puzzle fit before it’s too late!
Already being heralded as The DaVinci Code for kids, Chasing Vermeer will have middle grade readers 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. —Jennifer Hubert