Saturday, July 8, 2023

Chasing Vermeer - Middle Grade Mystery Review

Goodreads:  Chasing Vermeer by Blue Balliett

Rating: Liked It (3 Stars)
Source:   Library

Description:  When a book of unexplainable occurrences brings Petra Andalee and Calder Pillay together, strange things start to happen: seemingly unrelated events connect, an eccentric old woman seeks their company, and an invaluable Vermeer painting disappears. Before they know it, the two find themselves at the center of an international art scandal, where no one — neighbors, parents, teachers — is spared from suspicion. As Petra and Calder are drawn clue by clue into a mysterious labyrinth, they must draw on their powers of intuition, their problem-solving skills, and their knowledge of Vermeer. Can they decipher a crime that has left even the FBI baffled?

Genre:  Mystery - Middle Grade

Why I Picked This Book:  I am reading through middle grade books right now for two reasons.  The first is for my own enjoyment and the second is to see if it will be a good book to insert into our homeschool reading list for the upcoming school year.

My Impression: I loved the concept of this one!  Art is something I struggle to really include in our homeschool because we aren't really arty people and I've yet to really nail down a way to teach art history or art theory though I'm working on it.  Having a fun mystery that discusses an artist seemed liked the perfect way to kick start a study on Vermeer or whoever else the series goes on to feature.

Unfortunately, while the book does do a good job of providing a good intro into Vermeer and how little is known about him, it fails a bit in execution.  I liked Petra and Calder and really like that they are from multi-cultural households.  I also really liked that the teacher the books focused on is well liked and has an interesting out of the box way of thinking.  I also thought the school scenes were fairly realistic with not all kids being nice but not all kids being terrible.

Where I felt like this book failed was in the mystery portion.  The focus on patterns became a bit over the top and Calder's use of the letter blocks (which I initially really liked as he uses them to deal with anxiety and for comfort) becomes like fortune telling.  I think most children will be able to poke holes in the logic that Petra and Calder end up using which will damage their enjoyment.  

This was a fairly entertaining read and a fantastic ideas but the issues with the execution make this not a good choice for our school reading list.  

Would I Read More of this Series/Author? Probably not unless I see really great reviews for another book/series.

Would I Recommend this Book?  I'm iffy on this. It's not terrible and there are a lot of good points but the plot itself fell a bit flat.  


  1. Great review, but I'm sorry you didn't like this one more.

  2. I liked this one a lot more than you did; I thought it was a fun mystery and I liked the letter blocks. But as readers we all relate to books differently, and that's what makes book blogging so fun. :D

  3. Nice review, bummer about the mystery execution.

  4. I do enjoy a good middle grade book. Too bad that this one had some issues with the mystery.

  5. Pity this didn't work on all levels as it would have been a great jump off for art history.

  6. Thanks for sharing your thoughts! 🙌