Chasing Vermeer by Blue Balliett Age: 6th Grade + Scholastic Books, 2004 ISBN 0439372976 254 pages
Back cover synopsis
When a book of unexplainable occurences brings Petra Andalee and Calder Pillay together, strange things begin to happen. Seemingly unrelated events connect, an eccentric old woman seeks their company, and an invaluable Vermeer painting disappears.
Using the concepts of a found book Lo! by Charles Fort, Petra and Calder begin to notice a series of coincidences that help them piece together a set of clues towards discovering not only what happened to the missing Vermeer painting, but also how it involves their 6th grade teacher Ms. Hussey. I thought this book was a really fun and exciting mystery book for young readers. I like that the main characters, Petra and Calder question their surroundings, and do not fit into any typical tween mold. Petra even states at one point that she believes people need more questions than answers in their lives.
This book is also fun for kids because of the intricate storyline, the twists in the plot, as well as the coded messages, pentominoes and art history carefully interwoven throughout the story. Petra and Calder are smart, and clever, but with a unique set of skills that help them work together and solve the mystery. I even like how slowly their friendship forms, all through their curiosity at their teacher’s strange actions outside of school. Brett Helquist’s wonderful artwork even contains a mystery, a certain pattern and hidden message that readers are encouraged to discover throughout the course of the novel. I love that there is extra involvement and extra thought encouraged in this book. There are more books in this series, and I’m sure they will be just as complex and well written as this novel.