Spring semester at the Lab School in Hyde Park finds Petra and Calder drawn into another mystery when unexplainable accidents and ghostly happenings throw a spotlight on Frank Lloyd Wright’s Robie House, and it’s up to the two junior sleuths to piece together the clues. Stir in the return of Calder’s friend Tommy (which creates a tense triangle), H.G. Wells’s The Invisible Man, 3-D pentominoes, and the hunt for a coded message left behind by Wright, and the kids become tangled in a dangerous web in which life and art intermingle with death, deception, and surprise. (from Amazon)
I really enjoyed Chasing Vermeer when I read it back in…2005? I liked the theme of coincidences-that-are-not, and the characters, and Blue Balliett’s writing, and basically just everything about it. It took me a while to read the sequel, The Wright 3, but it’s got everything I liked about the first book and MORE.
What I like best about Blue Balliett’s books is that they’re magical and exciting and they make me want to be a kid again so I can go off on adventures with art and books and so on. When you’re reading her books, you can really tell she admires and likes kids, and that she wants them to have fun and learn and grow. They’re cozy, her books, like a flannel blanket on a winter’s frosty morning.
In The Wright 3, there’s multitudes of things I could talk about, least of all the fish and Fibonacci numbers and triangles. Ms Balliett really knows how to use seemingly small things and make them big, and how to take big things and make them small (or else she turns them into red herrings). It goes beyond the plot and the clues that Petra, Calder and Tommy sort through, even. Her small, subtle things are in her writing, especially in the relationships between the kids.
When it first starts off, Tommy has moved back to Hyde Park after about a year away. His best friend, Calder, has gotten a new friend, Petra, which was part of the plot in Chasing Vermeer. But now Tommy feels left out and lonely, and while he never specifically says that, Ms Balliett managed to work in any number of clues to how he’s feeling. Mostly it’s in body language, but it’s also in how Petra and Calder act around him and with him. It was just lovely to read emotions without being bowled over by them, as in some other middle grade books. Ms Balliett’s writing is sophisticated without being stuffy, and I think it works equally well for adults as it does for kids.
Anyway, I particularly liked the idea of art and architecture as a living thing. Also that art needs to be protected, and that anyone can protect it– even kids. And I really liked how Ms Balliett kept comparing Tommy/Petra/Calder to different sorts of triangles, even when they were at odds with each other. It really showed that they were a team that was meant to be together, since of course you can’t have a trangle without three points.
There’s plenty of math and bookish things to satisfying any nerd, old or young, and there’s even some things for fish lovers and treasure-seekers as well. I really enjoyed this book, and I can’t wait to read The Calder Game next.
Read: January 16, 2010
I didn’t mention it in my review, but I also like Ms Balliet’s Calder/Petra/Tommy books because all three of the protagonists are of mixed ethnic origins. Calder’s parents are Indian and Canadian, Tommy’s parents are British and Colombian, and Petra’s family is from North African/the Netherlands/the Middle East. I just find it really wonderful that Ms Balliett didn’t take the easy way out and make them all Caucasian, and the different cultures present (mostly background, at least in this book) just make the book(s) even richer. Petra’s family even speaks in more than one language at home! Yay!
Oh! And of course the illustrations by Brett Helquist are wonderful as well.