The Calder Game
by Blue Balliett
In this sequel to Chasing Vermeer and The Wright 3, three clever young unconventional thinkers from Chicago, USA, find themselves caught up in a life-endangering mystery in a small English town. Calder, Tommy, and Petra are still working out the whole "trio of friends" thing when Calder, the best friend in the middle, gets pulled out of the deck by a chance to visit the U.K. with his father. Tommy and Petra are still at the mutually-irritating, jealous-of-each-other stage of getting used to having to share Calder's friendship, and now suddenly they have to work together to help Mr. Pillay (Calder's dad) and the authorities find their friend.
Why? Because Calder has disappeared, silly! What could be behind his missing-persons case? Could it be a case of foul play? The fact that an unpopular piece of modern art, recently placed in the village square by an anonymous donor, also happened to disappear on the same night as Calder, makes that seem likely. But why would anyone want to kidnap Calder? And whether that happened or something else—such as an accident, or maybe getting lost in a hedge maze—how long do his friends have to find Calder before the chances of recovering him safely shrink to zero?
Tommy and Petra apply their own brand of unconventional thinking to solving these riddles; and sometimes, they try thinking like Calder himself—an exercise that has a weirdly high success rate, not only in solving problems but in bringing together two awkward kids, a grumpy old lady, and others.
Being used to the diet and habits of the common, or garden, children's mystery, you may be surprised by this story. It doesn't resolve itself as easily as you might expect. The solution to the mystery is both deceptively simple and scarily dangerous. And the whole adventure is kind of a sneaky way to get kids interested in the unusual, three-dimensional art work of Alexander Calder, the historic and scenic wonders of the Blenheim Palace and its neighborhood, and some further applications of those good old Pentominoes that you might not want to try at home.
This book will especially appeal to kids who are interested in history, art, foreign travel, and the type of education that isn't reduced to preparing for standardized tests. It might be a good book for teachers to read, too. If they learn the lesson one teacher in the book learns, more schools might become places of real learning and discovery. Or they might enjoy the book, at least. That could happen too. For more adventures of Calder and friends, look up the fourth book in the series, titled The Danger Box.
St. Louis, USA
Recommended Age: 12+
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