Chasing Vermeer – A Tween Da Vinci Code?

Book Review : Chasing Vermeer

By Blue Balliett
Illustrated by Brett Helquist

Spoiler Alert!



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. (Courtesy of

Adult Point of View

Do you like puzzles, patterns, art and mystery? If so this is the book for you. I thought Chasing Vermeer was quite clever. I saw some clues in the illustrations, but I needed a guide to know just what to do with what I found.

I think kids will get caught into this book because it is interactive with solving codes and looking for clues. Finding the missing painting does not rely on science, but rather coincidence – which is rather like magic. Because the book is for a young audience, who halfway want to believe in magical thinking, moving the action forward with patterns and coincidences works. The pentominoes are a tool for inspiration used by Calder which predict the future or interpret the present. As and example the pentomino F might stand for Fool, if you felt like you had acted like a fool. An adult would want to have scientific reasons, or logic to solve the problems on hand.

The resolution was a little confusing, but I was reading quickly, which is my excuse. Frog who disappeared seemed like a clue to “Glitter Man” being responsible for the theft of A Lady Writing.

“And then there was Frog. Once Petra remembered Fort’s sentence We shall pick up an existence by its frogs, she pointed out to Calder that perhaps it had been some kind of strange clue. Maybe they should have picked up Gliter Man’s existence from Frog.” (p.253-254)

In fact, Frog had gone to stay with a relative in Washington D.C. while his parents were traveling.

I would recommend this book to anyone over the age of 10 because of its complexity. I can see the comparison to Dan Brown’s Da Vinci Code because of the speed and mystery surrounding art. It was a fun read!

I loved Helquist’s illustrations!


3.5 out of 5 stars

  • the Mother

If you liked this one try reading Theodosia and the Serpents of Chaos by Robin LaFevers.


A Lady Writing


Pentominoes Code

Here is a link for lots of enrichment activities to use with Chasing Vermeer.

The author’s explanation pages.

About Tales Untangled

I am a mother of four children and have a passion for reading. I love sharing my treasury of books with my kids. I also do experiments in cooking which includes such things as Indian Tandoori Chicken slow-cooked in a tagine. I write stories and illustrate in ink.
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