Wednesday, January 20, 2010


The Calder Game

by Blue Balliett

The author of the wonderful novels Chasing Vermeer and The Wright 3 returns with another art-themed tale of suspense! I was very excited to read this, because I loved the first ones.

Calder, Tommy, and Petra are friends - well, Calder and Petra are friends, and Calder and Tommy are friends, but Tommy and Petra, not so much. The three of them do all share in the misery that is their new teacher, though. She even manages to put a damper on an exciting exhibit of Calder mobiles that has the whole of Chicago talking, but the three can't help but be a little inspired anyhow. It's not great, but it's something - at least, until Calder gets the chance to go to Britain with his dad and leaves the other two behind.

When he arrives there, he finds the whole town in an uproar over a new and mysteriously donated Calder sculpture, and no one seems friendly to outsiders. He passes a day or two on his own, exploring the grounds of Blenheim and its maze, and then both he and the sculpture disappear on the same night.

His dad is in a panic, and no one seems to be making any progress, so knowing that they have solved puzzles together before, his dad asks Tommy and Petra to come and help figure out what could have happened, along with an older neighbour who had played a key part in an earlier mystery.

There is a little less puzzle-solving and a little more on-foot discovery here, but the relationships between the kids are still really well-drawn, and the emphasis on how inspiring art and ideas can be is as strong as ever, even leading each of the trio to start seeing patterns in words and numbers the way the others do. I love that about these books, that these kids are smart and quirky without being painted as hopeless geeks, and that their interests are not only useful tools, but also fun ways to look at what is around them.

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