The Calder Game

Common Sense Media says

Third in the series is the weakest of all.





What parents need to know

Positive messages

Calder strikes up a conversation with a stranger in a public park, decides not to tell his father, and later goes off alone with the man. Tommy and Petra disobey the police, and Tommy steals a wheelbarrow.


A man is thought to have been hit on the head hard enough to put him into a coma.

Not applicable
Not applicable

British candy brands mentioned.

Drinking, drugs, & smoking

Adults drink brandy and whiskey.

Parents Need to Know

Parents need to know that the only troubling thing here is the behavior of the kids who are the main characters. Calder strikes up a conversation with a stranger in a public park, decides not to tell his father, and later goes off alone with the man. Tommy and Petra disobey the police, and Tommy steals a wheelbarrow.

Parents say

Kids say

What's the story?

After a class trip to see an exhibition of the works of Alexander Calder in Chicago, Calder Pillay travels to a small village in England with his father, who is attending a conference. There they discover another work of Calder in the town square, but soon after they arrive both the artwork and the boy disappear. Hearing this, Calder's friends, Tommy, Petra, and Mrs. Sharpe, arrive to help with the investigation.

Is it any good?


Chasing Vermeer was a tightly woven combination of math, mystery, codes, and art history that was compared to The DaVinci Code. The sequel, The Wright 3, was less tightly woven but still entertaining. But THE CALDER GAME makes it clear that the author went one book too far.

Codes are still here, but have nothing to do with the plot. Pentominoes have become little more than something for Calder to fiddle with. The mystery is bogus, and the kids, after much lurking around, don't even solve it. There's really nothing left except for the author's fascination with art, which she tries to pound into her readers at tedious length. Even the story sags; The author lamely tries to gin up some tacked-on suspense with foreboding chapter endings that lead nowhere and are about nothing -- "a sense of something hovering" (there isn't anything), watching eyes (which are never connected to anyone), strange sounds, and the like. Balliett writes well enough, but it's time for her to move on to a new idea.

Families can talk about...

  • Families can talk about Alexander Calder and his amazing art. Why does it have the effect on us that it does? In what way is it art? To learn more about Calder, start with the links below, and look to see if there is any of his art near you that you can visit. Also, there are many books on how to make mobiles, and your kids may enjoy trying their hands at it.

Book details

Author:Blue Balliett
Illustrator:Brett Helquist
Book type:Fiction
Publisher:Scholastic Inc.
Publication date:May 1, 2008
Number of pages:379
Read aloud:9
Read alone:10

This review of The Calder Game was written by

About our rating system

  • ON: Content is age-appropriate for kids this age.
  • PAUSE: Know your child; some content may not be right for some kids.
  • OFF: Not age-appropriate for kids this age.
  • NOT FOR KIDS: Not appropriate for kids of any age.

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Our star rating assesses the media's overall quality.

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Learning ratings

  • Best: Really engaging; great learning approach.
  • Very Good: Engaging; good learning approach.
  • Good: Pretty engaging; good learning approach.
  • Fair: Somewhat engaging; OK learning approach.
  • Not for Learning: Not recommended for learning.
  • Not for Kids: Not age-appropriate for kids; not recommended for learning.

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Parent of a 12 and 14 year old Written bybballgirl47 September 28, 2009

Good for tweens and older but not younger.

I love it i Think that as long as your kids understand that they should never talk to a stranger not tell you about it and not go with them somewhere alone, it is great. It got my 12 year old interested in art.
What other families should know
Educational value
Great role models
Kid, 12 years old September 4, 2011

Read it! Now!

The Calder Game is a wonderful book! Full of Art, History, loyalty, and those suspenseful edge-of-your-seat bits! Some adult situations, yes, but that's to be expected.Perfect for any adventure craving child!
What other families should know
Educational value
Great messages
Great role models
Too much consumerism
Kid, 10 years old April 4, 2011

the calder game

Ilove the book
What other families should know
Educational value


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