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Chasing Vermeerby Blue Balliett and Brett Helquist
Synopses & Reviews
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 unexplainable occurances 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. As Petra and Calder are drawn clue by clue into a mysterious labyrinth they must draw on their powers of intuition, their skills at problem solving, and their knowledge of Vermeer. Can they decipher a crime that has left even the FBI baffled?
"Puzzles nest within puzzles in this ingeniously plotted and lightly delivered first novel that, revolving around the heist of a Vermeer painting, also touches on the nature of coincidence, truth, art and similarly meaty topics. Petra Andalee and Calder Pillay become friends in sixth grade at a school operated by the University of Chicago (Balliett taught at the University's Lab Schools), both of them independent thinkers excited by their maverick teacher, Ms. Hussey. For reasons unknown to her students, the teacher asks her class to ponder the importance of letters (the epistolary sort) and to mull over Picasso's ideas about art as 'a lie that tells the truth.' Readers have the edge on the characters, being privy to an enigmatic letter sent to three unidentified persons outlining a centuries-old 'crime' against a painter's artistic legacy. These mysteries deepen exponentially when someone steals a Vermeer masterpiece and holds it hostage, demanding scholarly redress for misattributions within Vermeer's small oeuvre. The art mystery and the crisp intelligence of the prose immediately recall E.L. Konigsburg, but Balliett is an original: her protagonists also receive clues through dreams, pentominoes (math tools with alphabetic correspondences), secret codes (including some left to readers to decipher) and other deliberately non-rational devices. Helquist (the Lemony Snicket books) compounds the fun with drawings that incorporate the pentomino idea to supply visual clues as well. Thick with devilish red herrings, this smart, playful story never stops challenging (and exhilarating) the audience. Ages 8-12. (June)" Publishers Weekly (Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information, Inc.)
"Balliett...has taken the literary craze for intellectual sleuthing...and combined it with a fidelity to old-fashioned trail-of-clues children's books, resulting in a novel...that is suspenseful, exciting, charming and even unexpectedly moving." Meg Wolitzer, The New York Times Book Review
"Art, intrigue, and plenty of twists and turns make this art mystery a great read....Fans of...From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler or...The Westing Game will find equal pleasure in this debut by a talented writer." Kirkus Reviews
"Adults who understand the links between children's reading and their developing minds and imaginations will see this as special....Helquist, who has illustrated the Lemony Snickett books, outdoes himself here, providing an interactive mystery in his pictures." Ilene Cooper, Booklist (Starred Review)
"[An] engrossing and engaging debut novel....This is an unusual story that should appeal to all the Calders and Petras who know — or hope — that there is more to the universe than what can be rationally explained." Claudia Mills, Children's Literature
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.
Olive thought she'd uncovered all the house's secrets. She was wrong.
It's Halloween night when strangers come to Linden Street...and something dear to Olive goes missing. To what lengths will she go to get it back? Can she trust the strangers? Will she turn to a new and dangerous magic within the paintings of Elsewhere? Or will she put her faith in her own worst enemies to save the people and home she loves?
The stakes grow higher, the secrets more dangerous, and mystery and magic abound as Olive, the boys, and the cats uncover the true nature of the house on Linden Street. A must-read fantasy series for fans of Pseudonymous Bosch, Coraline, and Septimus Heap.
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.
About the Author
Blue Balliett is the author of several bestselling, acclaimed mystery novels, including Chasing Vermeer (a Book Sense Book of the Year and an Edgar Award winner), The Wright 3, The Calder Game, and The Danger Box. She writes in the laundry room of her home in Chicago, Illinois, and you can find her online at www.blueballiettbooks.com.
Brett Helquist was born in Ganado, Arizona, and grew up in Orem, Utah. He entered Brigham Young University as an engineering major, but soon realized this was not the right choice for him. Having decided to take time off from college, he headed to Taiwan where he stumbled into a job illustrating English textbooks, which he enjoyed. There, a friend introduced him to an illustration student, also from Brigham Young University. This introduction inspired Brett to eventually switch majors. After spending a year in Taiwan, he went back to BYU and transferred to the illustration department. In 1993 he received a fine arts degree in illustration.
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