Synopses & Reviews
Spring semester at the Lab School in Hyde Park finds Petra and Calder drawn into another mystery when unexplainable accidents and ghostly happenings throw a spotlight on Frank Lloyd Wright's Robie House, and it's up to the two junior sleuths to piece together the clues. Stir in the return of Calder's friend Tommy (which creates a tense triangle), H.G. Wells's The Invisible Man, 3D pentominoes, and the hunt for a coded message left behind by Wright, and the kids become tangled in a dangerous web in which life and art intermingle with death, deception, and surprise.
"Unlike the set-up in Balliett's Chasing Vermeer, no crime has been committed yet when Petra, Calder and Tommy begin the final weeks of sixth grade in the University of Chicago's Laboratory School. But the class does wonder if it's 'murder' for the university to demolish a 1910 Frank Lloyd Wright house it owns, and sell off the pieces to different museums (an author's note reports that the real Robie House was almost demolished twice, and that pieces of Wright houses reside in museums the world over). Those who enjoyed the first adventure will be quickly drawn in once more by the charmingly subversive Ms. Hussey who, with her students, hatches a plan to preserve the building. They decide to cut up posters of fine art in front of the house, to demonstrate that, as Petra puts it, 'cutting it up would be the same thing as cutting up a priceless painting.' The project morphs into an obsession for 'the Wright 3': Petra suspects a mysterious stranger is linked to subterfuge surrounding the house; Calder notices that the home is like a giant-size version of his set of pentominoes, and Tommy unearths an ancient jade fish on the grounds that may have been Wright's lost talisman. The blue M&Ms from the first book have been replaced by red gummy 'herrings,' but other ingredients remain a sophisticated subject spiced by puzzles, codes and a soupçon of danger as the titular trio works to stop the wrecking ball from swinging. Ages 8-12." Publishers Weekly (Copyright Reed Business Information, Inc.)
"Balliett's atmospheric writing encourages readers to make their own journeys of discovery into art and architecture, creating a mystery subgenre that is as unique as it is compelling." School Library Journal
"[S]ome children may find this second installment more arcane than the first..." Booklist
"Another tour de force blending art, math, philosophy, history and literature." Kirkus Reviews
"This second book with Petra and Calder, and the effort to save another important piece of artwork, will not disappoint readers." Children's Literature
"[A]nother exciting art adventure....This installment is a worthy follow-up and provides a wonderful opportunity for young readers to think about buildings as art." VOYA
Gr. 58. How many newsworthy art crimes can 12-year-old sleuths thwart in a single year? At least two, as readers will discover in this sequel to Balliett's celebrated Chasing Vermeer (2004). After all, magical coincidences” are what these thinking-kids' adventures are all about. Tommy Segovia, the best friend Calder corresponded with during the Vermeer crisis, has returned to Hyde Park, and he resents Petra and Calder's tight twosome. But when a house by Frank Lloyd Wright is slated for destruction, the sixth-graders overcome tensions to save the landmark and decode its secretsamong them, an intriguing buried artifact. Leapfrogging connections and mystical messages from Calder's pentominoes once again drive the plot, but some children may find this second installment more arcane than the first, with too much focus on Wright and his genius, difficult-to-follow gleanings from sources as eclectic as H. G. Wells' Invisible Man and Fibonacci, and a central problem that lacks the glamorous hook of an international art heist. But determined fans will grab hold of the true-to-life friendship issues Balliett introduces, and manyparticularly her brainiest, most open-minded readerswill emerge energized by the invitation to explore themes of an interconnected universe. A new pentominoes code appears in the narrative, and Helquist likewise embeds another challenge in his drawings (unfinished in the galley). Jennifer Mattson
Tommy, who went missing in Chasing Vermeer, has moved back to his old neighborhood in Chicago and things have changed. His best friend, Calder, has a new friend, a girl named Petra, and exciting things happened while Tommy was gone. Miss Hussey, the sixth grade teacher, seems a little strange, but the students all pay attention to her. The announcement that the Frank Lloyd Wright Robie House, right down the street, is to be dismantled and displayed in different museums becomes the lynchpin for another exciting art adventure. Although Tommy tries to be friends with Calder and Petra, his resentment frequently puts him on a solo path and also caused problems between Calder and Petra.
Each character has a distinct personality and approach to problem solving. Petra finds a copy of the Invisible Man that has a strange relationship to the goings on; Tommy- who lives next to the house- unearths a fish-shaped object on the grounds where he should not have been. Calder's pentominoes seem to be giving him messages. There are lights in the house. As the mystery develops and more resources are needed to save the house, Tommy, Petra, and Calder's complimentary abilities move toward solutions and success. While learning about the Robie House, they develop their art appreciation, a sense of history, civic responsibility, take some risks, and eventually all become friends. This installment is a worthy follow-up and provides a wonderful opportunity for young readers to think about buildings as art.
Kikus Starred The determined sleuths from Balliett' s fine first novel, Chasing Vermeer, return in another mystery, centered on one of Chicago's architectural treasures. As sixth grade wanes, the vibrant Ms. Hussey reveals heartbreaking news: Because of the extraordinary costs of maintenance and repair, Frank Lloyd Wright's Robie House, a city icon since 1910, will be dismantled in sections and donated to four museums. While the class's spirited campaign to save the building ends with the school year, the passionately curios Petra and Calder press on, abetted by Calder's good friend Tommy, just back from a traumatic year away. The shifting third-person narrative effectively captures the children's tense struggle to transform from duo to trio, and transmits their shared delight in puzzling, excavating and thinking deeply, creating a similarly heightened alertness in the reader. The Wright 3” take increasingly bold risks to recover a stolen, priceless
Frank Lloyd Wright's famous building, Robie House, is in danger of being destroyed, and Calder, Petra, and Tommy also known as "the Wright 3" must use Calder's geometric brain, Petra's writing and observational skills, and Tommy's research skills to decode the cryptic messages the house seems to be sending out. This exciting Chicago mystery reunites readers with characters from the bestseller Chasing Vermeer.
About the Author
Blue Balliett grew up in New York City. She has always loved museums, always loved mysteries, and always loved hearing about things that can't be explained in the usual ways.