A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this book.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that the child-heroes of this book, while clever, lie to each other and to their parents, and sneak out at night in dangerous situations. As readers travel through this mystery, they can find and decode the clues, both verbal and pictorial, scattered throughout the book.
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What's the story?
Petra and Calder from Chasing Vermeer, finishing up their sixth grade year, are joined by Calder's friend Tommy, who has moved back to town, and the trio is not a comfortable one. Tommy resents Calder and Petra's friendship, and is sullen and rude about it.
Then their teacher, Ms. Hussey, introduces them to a tragedy in the making -- Frank Lloyd Wright's Robie House is about to be cut into four pieces and sent to different museums. The kids and teacher quickly organize an effective protest that gets plenty of media and political attention.
But there's more going on at Robie House than meets the eye: strange lights, worker injuries, hidden codes, and a house that may have a mind of its own bring the trio together to solve the mystery and save the house.
Is it any good?
Kids who liked Chasing Vermeer will probably enjoy this sequel about unlikely friends saving a Frank Lloyd Wright house -- and solving a mystery. There are more art crimes, more clues hidden in pictures, more codes to solve, more pentominoes, more mathematical, literary, and historical connections -- more of everything that made the first book fun. But somehow it adds up to less.
The clever bits are mostly extraneous: You don't need to find the hidden pictures or decode the codes or understand pentominoes to follow the story -- none of them are integral. The author introduces interesting strands, characters, and ideas and then drops them without their having served any purpose. It's all pleasant and interesting, in a tepid sort of way, and some kids will enjoy it.