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.
"Puzzles nest within puzzles in this ingeniously plotted and lightly delivered first novel that, revolving around the heist of a Vermeer painting," PW said in a starred review. Ages 8-12. (May) Copyright 2005 Reed Business Information.
Voice of Youth Advocates
December 1, 2004
Mix classic artworks with crime? It seems to be a popular plot
that makes its way here to a thriller for young readers. Two
eccentric sixth graders at the University School find themselves in
the middle of a major art theft. Who was Vermeer? What does Charles
Fort have to do with it all? (He was real.) And why do Petra and
Calder get clues about what has happened? Petra sees images that
relate to the picture of the lady, and Calder's favorite game
pieces, from pentominoes, give him clues. Their teacher, Miss
Hussey, seems to be involved, as does elderly Mrs. Sharpe, and
perhaps Calder's father. And then there is something odd about Mr.
Watch from Powell's Bookstore. Calder's friend Tommy sends coded
messages and then goes missing. Plenty of clues, wrong directions,
speculation, and good guesses lead Petra and Calder on a sequence
of adventures to find the art work before it is destroyed. This
exciting romp will appeal to middle school readers and make them
think about clues and even art. The adults are given good
characterizations although the young people do not know whom to
trust and perhaps get in a little deeper than they should. The
ending comes a bit too quickly without enough evolution and there
are a number of loose ends, but most readers will overlook this
flaw for the fun. The illustrations by Helquist, of Lemony Snicket
fame, contain hidden messages that present challenging puzzles to
the reader.-Patricia Morrow. Horn Book Magazine
July 1, 2004
(Intermediate) "Dear Friend: I would like your help in identifying a crime that is now centuries old." Sixth-grade classmates Petra Andalee and Calder Pillay are drawn into the mystery: a claim that some of the works attributed to Johannes Vermeer were not, in fact, painted by that seventeenth-century Dutch artist. Their investigation--fueled by the enigmatic behavior of their favorite teacher, a shared interest in unexplained phenomena, and a few mystical experiences of their own--uncovers a series of coincidences and connections that, like the pentomino set (a puzzle-like math tool) Calder carries in his pocket, fit together in often-unexpected patterns. And when Vermeer's A Lady Writing disappears while in transit from the National Gallery to the Art Institute of Chicago, Petra and Calder end up hunting for the missing painting right in their own neighborhood. The protagonists are smart and appealing, the prose style is agreeably quirky, and fans of puzzle-mysteries will enjoy cracking the codes presented within the text and hidden in Helquist's stylish black-and-white illustrations. But they may also be frustrated that such a heady, elaborately plotted novel comes to a weak resolution, as the answers to the mysteries are explained away in a too-hasty summation--and the villain turns out to be an offstage figure. The conclusion may be disappointing, but the chase to the end is entertaining. Copyright 2004 of The Horn Book, Inc. All rights reserved. School Library Journal
July 1, 2004 Gr 5-8-Fans of Ellen Raskin's The Westing Game (Dutton, 1978) and E. L. Konigsburg's From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler (Turtleback, 1967) will welcome this novel about two classmates determined to solve the mystery of a missing painting. Brainy 12-year-olds Petra Andalee and Calder Pillay attend the University of Chicago Laboratory School where their teacher's unorthodox methods make learning an adventure. When Vermeer's A Lady Writing disappears on its way to exhibition at the Art Institute of Chicago, the two overcome their adolescent awkwardness and let their friendship bloom, pooling their talents to rescue the masterpiece and expose the thief. Many elements play a role in unraveling the secrets surrounding the crime: Calder's set of pentominoes; his encoded correspondence with his friend Tommy about a missing boy named Frog; and