Chasing Vermeer

Book review by
Matt Berman, Common Sense Media
Chasing Vermeer Book Poster Image
Popular with kids
A mystery, fantasy, and imaginative launch pad.

Parents say

age 12+
Based on 4 reviews

Kids say

age 10+
Based on 20 reviews

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A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this book.

Positive Messages

There's so much here to stimulate a child's mind: the codes embedded in both the story and the illustrations, art history, pentominoes, the works of Charles Fort, mathematical patterns, and much more

Positive Role Models & Representations

Children sneak out of their homes and engage in dangerous behavior.


Calder is knocked off a slide and injured.

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that there's so much here to stimulate a child's mind: the codes embedded in both the story and the illustrations, art history, pentominoes, the works of Charles Fort, mathematical patterns, and much more. Many kids will want more information on one or more of the subjects presented and, with help from an adult, should find profitable areas for pleasurable research.

User Reviews

  • Parents say
  • Kids say
Adult Written byHallonswolf B. January 19, 2017


boring and vapid. terrible and whiny and disgustingly biased.
Adult Written byCSM Screen name... January 21, 2015

Love it!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

It was the best book i ever read+ i love mysteries
Teen, 13 years old Written byElsapato January 3, 2021
Kid, 12 years old September 17, 2020

Very good mystery book

Good book. A bit slow at first but it's a good read. I like the mystery aspect

What's the story?

A famous Vermeer painting, The Lady Writing, is stolen while in transit to a Chicago museum. Petra and Calder, classmates at the University of Chicago Lab School, think they may be able to solve the mystery. Petra has found, and then lost again, a related letter, and each of them may be getting supernatural messages about the theft, Petra directly from the Lady in the painting, and Calder from a set of pentominoes.

As they track down clues, their investigations lead them in many directions: an old lady in the neighborhood, a famous bookstore, their teacher, a book of freakish phenomena, a friend's disappearance, and a series of odd coincidences. No one is what they seem to be, and Petra and Calder don't know whom they can trust.

Is it any good?

An intellectual challenge wrapped up in a mystery novel -- bright children are going to love this. Blue Balliett's first book is a thinking child's mystery, filled not only with the traditional accoutrements of adult mysteries (clues, red herrings, multiple suspects, plot twists, concluding explanations), but also with secret codes (which the reader has to decode to read the whole story), mathematical patterns, hidden drawings, art history, and references to the real books of Charles Fort, who wrote in the beginning of the 20th century about unexplained phenomena. The fun comes not from solving the mystery, but from watching CHASING VERMEER's main characters figure it out.

This book will be a challenge even for accomplished young readers -- the author and illustrator encourage poring over it carefully and pausing to think and experiment. If one stretches out the reading too much it's easy to lose track of the myriad details, necessitating rereading.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about art. What makes an object a work of art?

  • How do you determine its value?

  • Families can also talk about coincidences. Do you believe coincidences have meaning, or are they just a matter of chance?

Book details

Our editors recommend

For kids who love intelligent adventures

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