But of course, I have to read the TEXT, not the cover art, so I flipped through to see if this sounded like an interesting mystery. Two kids who solve the mystery of an art theft that the professionals can't? Yep, sounded great.
Petra and Calder are two sixth-graders who had never been friends before this adventure. Calder had always hung around with his best friend Tommy in past years, but Tommy moved away. Calder continued his usual routine on his own, playing with his pentominoes, solving math problems, and working a few hours a week at the local bookstore. Petra was also something of a loner, preferring time with books to hanging out with friends.
The first thing that Petra and Calder have in common is their love of their new sixth grade teacher who approaches school with a sense of adventure and exploration. (I got a few good ideas from that teacher.) But right away, things start to feel wrong. Their teacher seems distracted and worried, Calder's boss at the bookstore is acting suspicious, Tommy sends letters about a missing kid in his new neighborhood, and Petra's parents begin to argue, all at the same time the news announces the theft of a famous and valuable painting by the artist Vermeer.
As Calder and Petra work together to try to solve the mystery, everyone around them seems guilty. The author leaves clues all along the story, but I was only able to look back and put them together at the end of the book, when the truth was finally revealed. I love that about a mystery, when I'm totally surprised but then can see how it all makes sense.
I like this book because of the friendship between the two main characters, the mixing of math and art in the mystery, and especially because the book made me think about patterns in our day. Petra and Calder kept seeing coincidences and it makes us wonder if they are really just haphazard coincidences or if everything really is connected. There is no clear answer to that question, but it is a great thought to consider. I find myself looking around my day to see the coincidences and try to decide if they are actually connected.
And one more fun thing, Brett Helquist hid a secret message in the illustrations! It was fun to try to figure out the message (but I'll never reveal the secret!)
You can find this book in the Mystery section of our classroom library.