Kids’ Art Reads: “Chasing Vermeer”

Ever wondered how to share your love of art with kids? Besides what we do here at the Art Docent Program, that is.

"Chasing Vermeer" by Blue Balliett. c/o
“Chasing Vermeer” by Blue Balliett. c/o

Perhaps you’ve wanted to get them more into reading, too. Well, good books about art aren’t just written for adults! The Chasing Vermeer series by Blue Balliett, although originally written for young readers, is perfectly thrilling for both children and adults.

In the first book of this series, Chasing Vermeer, we meet two Chicago schoolchildren, Calder and Petra. Hint number one that these books are going to be awesome and art-centered: Calder is named after American sculptor Alexander Calder, famed for his modern kinetic sculptures, while Petra’s name is inspired by the ancient architecture in Petra, Jordan. Through a series of odd events, Calder and Petra must work together to solve a mystery surrounding Dutch master Johannes Vermeer’s painting A Lady Writing.

"The Wright 3" by Blue Balliett, c/o
“The Wright 3” by Blue Balliett, c/o

Their escapades continue in the next two books of the series, The Wright 3 and The Calder Game. The Wright 3 is centered around Frank Lloyd Wright’s architectural masterpiece the Robie house, while The Calder Game, as you might have guessed, focuses on both the character Calder and a sculpture by his namesake. Also, all books feature illustrations by Brett Helquist, the Leonardo of young adult fiction illustration.

I read this series as a kid, so I’m a bit biased, but I can say that it was definitely unlike anything else I’d ever read at that point. The characters all have different talents–i.e., Calder is good at puzzles, and Petra is an aspiring writer–but they use those skills to work together and solve mysteries. In addition, the books teach you a lot about art, but subtly. You find yourself being drawn into the mystery as well, and work to solve it along with the characters. Balliett’s writing is clever and fresh, and the stories she creates focus on both the power of art and the unique power and worldview that children have. Altogether, the Chasing Vermeer series are perfect for the fifth or sixth-grade reader, as well as the adult that doesn’t mind the occasional foray into youth fiction.

"The Calder Game" by Blue Balliett. c/o
“The Calder Game” by Blue Balliett. c/o


Want more information? Here’s publisher Scholastic’s synopsis of the series.

Also, here’s author Blue Balliett’s website. Because she’s awesome.

And a link to the first book on Amazon. Just in case your local library doesn’t have it.

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