by Blue Balliett, illustrated by Brett Helquist
This is one of my favorite mystery books. Petra and Calder become friends as they realize they are discovering clues, sometimes in supernatural ways, about an art theft of a Vermeer painting. They live in Hyde Park in Chicago, and particular places in that area play an important role in the story, including the university and art museum. When this book came out in 2004, many people referred to it as “the DaVinci Code for kids.” If you’re looking for a mystery with puzzles at all different levels, this is a great read. Unlike most novels, the illustrations actually have clues in them as well, and hidden things to find. You might want to learn more about the 17th century artist Johannes Vermeer (see book review for The Vermeer Interviews below) and about pentominoes. I had to look them up so I could see the painting that was stolen, and I found a game to play online that used pentomino shapes.
I just finished the sequel book, The Wright 3, which is also fantastic. The same characters must solve a mystery and find a way to save a Frank Lloyd Wright house that is going to be torn down. The Calder Game is a third book that came out last year, and I will definitely read it next. Mystery lovers who appreciate these books might also enjoy From the Mixed-Up Files of Basil E. Frankweiler, The Westing Game, and The Mysterious Benedict Society.
Reviewed by Jennifer