I didn’t want to read Chasing Vermeer. I was tired; it was late; I was actually in the middle of another book I couldn’t put down; there was television to catch up on. But then I cracked the spine and saw that author Blue Balliett had included a lovely neighborhood map on the opening pages, showing me where the characters’ houses and other sure-to-be-important buildings were located. I studied it. I like when maps are included in books. There are usually hints in them.
And then, the jackpot. I read the opening paragraph. And as I read it, I thought, “This already sounds like my most favorite book ever, The Westing Game by Ellen Raskin. And if a book sounds and feels like The Westing Game from that first paragraph, there is no way I can put it down.” Off went the t.v., down went my other book, and on went my nightlight. And soon came the story.
Chasing Vermeer is part mystery, part pentomino puzzle, part action, and all smarts. Petra and Calder are two sixth-graders who are suddenly thrown into an adventure they can’t turn down. It involves a painting by Vermeer, a famous Dutch artist who lived in the 1600s. (I’ve seen some of Vermeer’s works at the Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam so I was doubly interested, but even if you have no clue who Vermeer is, you’ll enjoy the story!) As the two try to solve the mystery by uncovering codes a thief leaves behind in newspapers, I got to play along, too. Even the illustrations in the book offer hints—you just have to look closely enough to spot them!
This riveting book is perfect for kids who like mysteries, puzzles, art, math, codes, chases, Chicago—or any or all of the above. If you’re still not convinced, read this sample excerpt from the book. What do you think? Talk it up in the comments!
— Morgan, Scholastic staffer