Skip to main content
Book Clubbing

Introduction

Chasing Vermeer
by Blue Balliett

Title

Author

Blue Balliett

Blue Balliett

Book Trailer

About the Book

When strange and seemingly unrelated events start to happen and a precious Vermeer painting disappears, eleven-year-olds Petra and Calder combine their talents to solve an international art scandal.

About the Author

Blue Balliett was born and raised in New York City. She spent her life surrounded by art, even to the point of perusing an art history degree at Brown University. While writing Chasing Vermeer, she was teaching full-time at the laboratory school at the University of Chicago, where the book takes place. She was interested in both art/mystery books for her students, and also had an interest in exploring the way that children seem to connect coincidences that may or may not be important. She believes that children often see things that adults cannot and wanted to put these elements in her book. All of the characters have been inspired by her life, including the two main characters, which she says are combinations of many kids she knows. Ms. Balliett is currently working on another art mystery novel, titled The Wright 3.

Discussion Questions

  1. Imagine you're one of the three characters to receive the mysterious letter. How would you respond to the letter? Would you keep the secret? Explain.
  2. Answer a question similar to Ms. Hussey's: What's the most important piece of mail (or email) you've ever received? How did you respond?
  3. Ms. Hussey asks the students the question, "What is art?" What do you think art is? Does it have to be tangible? Can anyone create it?
  4. Calder and Petra become great observers of patterns in the real world. What patterns do you see? Think about buildings, nature, your schedule, your behavior...
  5. Calder has a special box with a Vermeer painting on it. If you had a special box, what would you keep inside it? Why?
  6. Petra creates a Halloween costume of the lady in the painting. What's the most creative Halloween costume you can imagine?
  7. Calder and Petra create a special ritual of eating a blue M&M every time they take the next step in solving the mystery. What rituals do you have for when you accomplish a task? For example, how do you celebrate a good grade on a test? If you have no special rituals, what could you begin doing?
  8. Towards the end of the novel, Calder and Petra get separated while saving the painting. If you were Petra, would you have left Calder on the slide? If you would stay, how would you save the painting? If you would leave, would you have made the same choices as Petra? 
  9. Throughout the story we see Calder and Petra unable to trust the adults in their lives with the mystery they must solve. Have you ever felt like you needed an adult's help but couldn't get it? How did you solve your problem?
  10. In many scenes of the story we see Calder and Petra spending time with an elderly member of their community. Is there an elderly person in your life? What do you do with them and what have you learned from spending time together? 
  11. There are plans for a movie version of Chasing Vermeer. What scenes from the book are essential and must be included? What elements do you think the studio could save money and time by leaving out?