Gwen & Kate's Library

Two sisters' reviews of Young Adult and Middle Grade books, inspired by their lovely library.

Kate’s Comments on Chasing Vermeer by Blue Balliett

This is not my first art history mystery, because I read Masterpiece by Elise Broach many years ago, and probably some others as well. All in all it was a good mystery, although a lot of my suspicions were right, and there were a few things that still don’t make sense to me (some unresolved plot points). 

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Series: Chasing Vermeer Trilogy, Book 1

Genres: Middle Grade, Mystery, Realistic Fiction, Adventure

Rating: 4 stars

Description:

This bewitching first novel is a puzzle, wrapped in a mystery, disguised as an adventure, and delivered as a work of art. When a book of unexplainable occurrences brings Petra Andalee & Calder Pillay together, strange things start to happen: seemingly unrelated events connect, an eccentric old woman seeks their company, & an invaluable Vermeer painting disappears. Before they know it, the two find themselves at the center of an international art scandal. As Petra & Calder are drawn clue by clue into a mysterious labyrinth they must draw on their powers of intuition, their skills at problem solving, and their knowledge of Vermeer. Can they decipher a crime that has left even the FBI baffled? (From Amazon.com)

Book Review:

This is not my first art history mystery, because I read Masterpiece by Elise Broach many years ago, and probably some others as well. All in all it was a good mystery, although a lot of my suspicions were right, and there were a few things that still don’t make sense to me (some unresolved plot points).

The writing style was very obviously middle grade. The plot was as well, because they didn’t face very many problems. The only thing that kept the story going was them finding more clues, and it wasn’t that something was trying to stop them from figuring out the mystery.

I did learn a lot about this book, for example I didn’t know that Vermeer was Dutch, which surprises me the most that I didn’t know that! And I was surprised how much mystery surrounds his life.

Gwen, our dad and I all listened to this together as an audiobook. Gwen thought that the narrator made the two main characters, Petra and Calder, sound much younger and more immature than they should have been at the age of 11, and I completely agree that the narrator didn’t help make the book sound more mature. In addition, Gwen wanted to add that she thought this book was like a combination of the middle grade mystery feel of The Mysterious Benedict Society by Trenton Lee Stewart series, the Vermeer theme of Girl With a Pearl Earring by Tracy Chevalier, and the complex art mystery feeling (she thinks, because although it is on her to-read list, she hasn’t read the book yet) of The Da Vinci Code by Dan Brown.

Something we found out through research later is that the print copy contains illustrations done by Brett Helquist, the same illustrator for the Series of Unfortunate Events, and the drawings hide a secret code that can be figured out with help from clues on the Publisher’s website, found here (click on Chasing Vermeer illustrations for the images, and Reader’s Challenge Solution for the answers).

I didn’t especially love the characters, because they were just normal people really, except that Calder had a unique interest in pentominoes, mathematical puzzle-like tools.

Because of the interesting mystery set in the illustrations, and the disappointing narrator, I wish I had just read Chasing Vermeer as a print version, because I think it would have been fun to solve the puzzle with the characters. I think I will read the rest of the series, The Wright 3, and The Calder Game, and wonder if those have a hidden drawing code as well.

Do you like solving puzzles? Have you seen a Vermeer painting in real life?

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This entry was posted on August 11, 2014 by in Author: Kate, Middle Grade, Review and tagged , .
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