When Calder Pillay travels with his father to a remote village in England, he finds a mix of mazes and mystery . Read more...
When Calder Pillay travels with his father to a remote village in England, he finds a mix of mazes and mystery . . . including an unexpected Alexander Calder sculpture in the town square. Calder is strangely drawn to the sculpture, while other people have less-than-friendly feelings towards it. Both the boy and the sculpture seem to be out of place . . . and then, on the same night, they disappear Calder's friends Petra and Tommy must fly out to help his father find him. But this mystery has more twists and turns than a Calder mobile . . . with more at stake than first meets the eye.
Publishers Weekly® Reviews
- Reviewed in: Publishers Weekly, page 54.
- Review Date: 2008-05-19
- Reviewer: Staff
Acclaimed for her sophisticated juggling of art concepts, mystery, philosophy and storytelling, Balliett (Chasing Vermeer) outdoes herself with this ambitious novel. Like its predecessors, it asks readers to consider big ideas, this time using the mobiles of Alexander Calder as a springboard. Now in seventh grade, series heroes Petra, Tommy and Calder first see Calder's mobiles at an exhibit at a Chicago museum. There they are introduced to the “Calder game,” which invites participants to join five ideas or things that move in relation to one another, while looking for “balance, beauty, and surprise.” Three weeks later, Calder accompanies his father to a tiny town near Blenheim Palace in England, where an anonymous donor has installed a Calder sculpture in the ancient town square, much to the villagers' dismay. Curiously, Calder's own presence seems to inspire dismay as well—until he, and the sculpture, simply vanish overnight. The mystery is crafted more solidly than in either of Balliett's previous titles, and the setting—enriched by the hedge maze of Blenheim and the possible proximity of the pseudonymous British artist Banksy—proves completely enticing. And once again Helquist encodes his b&w illustrations with puzzle pieces. Motivated readers will treasure this provocative title. Ages 9–12. (May)
The art-loving trio of middle schoolers is at it again. In The Calder Game, Blue Balliett's latest art adventure, Calder Pillay, Petra Andalee and Tommy Segovia find themselves in England, on yet another exciting quest.
Balliett has devised a best-selling formula that workskids solving mysteries involving great works of artbut each time she varies the art form, so that each novel feels different. In Chasing Vermeer, Petra and Calder track down a stolen Vermeer painting, and in The Wright 3, Petra, Calder and Tommy try to save a house designed by Frank Lloyd Wright. All three novels are action-packed, but they are also information-packed, offering intriguing details about the art and artist, and challenging readers with intellectual questions and brain-teasing clues.
The Calder Game starts out with a field trip to the Chicago Museum of Contemporary Art to see a collection of Alexander Calder mobiles. And here, in deft writing, Balliett makes Calder's art come alive through the eyes of her three seventh-grade characters. Petra muses as she looks at the mobiles: "Simple? Only at first glance. Complex? Clearly, the answer should be yes. This is art that changes people, Petra thought to herself, people of all ages. But how?"
The three students will soon be changed greatly. Calder, who got his name because his parents admire the artist and his work, travels to Woodstock, England, with his dad, who is attending a conference. It just so happens that in this town a giant Calder sculpture has mysteriously appeared in the square. And Woodstock is the home of Blenheim Palace, which has a maze, so the stage is set for excitement. Calder has lots of free time to explore this new place while his dad attends meetings each day.
Before long, the Calder sculpture disappears just as mysteriously as it appeared, and young Calder Pillay also goes missing. Petra and Tommy are summoned to England to try to help find himalong with the police, of course.
The story moves swiftly, and along with the high-stakes drama, interesting questions are posed about the nature and appreciation of public art. The Calder Game is another wonderful effort from Blue Balliett, one that I wish had been around when I was a kid.
Alice Cary writes from Groton, Massachusetts.