A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this book.
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.
- Parents say
- Kids say
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.
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