I cannot remember where I first heard about this wonderful series by Blue Balliett, but Chasing Vermeer had been on my TBR list for several months. I noticed it at the library the other day when I was looking for something else. I read the back, glanced at the first few pages, and became immediately intrigued. Over the next few days, I stole every chance I could to read, desperate to get to the end and see how the complex pieces of the story fit together. And as soon as I finished, I started the next book, The Wright 3.
This book is hard to summarize because it has so many strands that work together, and because it is more than the sum of those strands. I also don’t want to give too much away. Calder and Petra are sixth graders that the University Lab School at the University of Chicago. Calder enjoys looking for patterns and always carries a set of mathematical tools called pentominoes with him. Petra loves to write and ask questions that don’t have an answer. They both notice several odd occurences at school and in their neighborhood and begin to explore them together. When a famous painting by Vermeer is stolen, they realize they’ve already uncovered some clues that could help them find it. They work together to find a fit for all their pieces.
Chasing Vermeer belongs on my list of favorite books. I love the suspense, the authors fresh way of looking at things, the way Calder and Petra’s teacher asks the students what they want to learn and lets them thoroughly explore a subject, the way she admits she doesn’t have all the answers. I love that Calder and Petra are smart kids who aren’t afraid to be creative in their thinking and take risks. I love that the book encourages the reader to ask open-ended question about what art is and how we think and how our intuition works. I love that the book serves as a jumping off point for a whole series of rabbit trails. Once I finished I wanted to look up Vermeer, Charles Fort (whose book, Lo! plays an important role in changing how Calder and Petra think about the mysteries around them), and pentominoes. I know M would love to play with them. Finally, I love that this book affected the way I think. I’ve been looking for patterns and chances to fit together pieces that don’t appear to come from the same puzzle.
M asked about the book while I was reading it and I certainly intend to share with her (and C ) eventually but I think she’s too young (5.5) to appreciate it fully and I don’t want to spoil the mystery too soon. It will go on the list of books we’ll read together later.