From School Library Journal
Grade 5–8—Those precocious art sleuths Calder, Petra, and Tommy are back, and this mystery is every bit as intricate, engaging, and delightful as Chasing Vermeer
(2004) and The Wright 3
(2006, both Scholastic). The three seventh graders go with their class to an exhibit of Alexander Calder's mobiles at the Museum of Contemporary Art in Chicago. Soon after, Calder and his father travel to a remote village in England that has an anonymously donated Calder sculpture, the Minotaur
, and a maze at Blenheim Park. Both the boy and the sculpture disappear on the same night. Balliett's love of words and her ability to tuck hidden, subtle clues into her story are evident throughout. Petra and Tommy fly to England to help Calder's dad and the police find their friend. The kids see mobiles everywhere: in the leaves, flying crows, paper trash. Indeed, the whole story is structured as a mobile, with plot and characters twisting and turning, moving and dancing around each other. The young sleuths are able to take what seems to be chance and coincidence and apply their own conclusions to the puzzle wrapped inside this mystery. Balliett's wonderful writing is full of foreshadowing, literary allusions, wordplay, and figurative language. Calder's signature yellow pentominoes play an important role, and the kids create a new code. Helquist's detailed illustrations enhance this multilayered story. Fans of the author's previous novels are in for a treat in this latest adventure.—Connie Tyrrell Burns, Mahoney Middle School, South Portland, ME
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*Starred Review* Calder, Petra, and Tommy, seventh-graders with a penchant for solving art mysteries, return in a new adventure that takes them across the sea. When Calder’s father goes to England to attend a conference, he takes Calder along and, rather surprisingly, allows him to wander the streets of tiny Woodstock, where they are staying, and explore nearby Blenheim Palace alone. Before Calder leaves, his class visits an exhibit of famous artist Alexander Calder’s work, including an innovation of the museum, the Calder Game. It invites participants to make or visualize mobiles of real or imaginary objects, and throughout the story, the trio continues to play in various ways. Once in Woodstock, the boy is shocked to see one of Calder’s sculptures, a recent donation that is despised by the residents. Then the sculpture goes missing, and so does the boy. Both the disappearance of the unsupervised Calder and the arrival of Petra and Tommy to hunt for their friend are contrivances. But to focus on the warts misses the beauty of the story as well as its potent messages about observation, imagination, and connections. Balliett doesn’t shirk from putting her characters in danger, but what’s fascinating is how she weaves in the kids’ attraction to puzzles, words, and found objects as she moves them through literal and figurative mazes. Balliett again offers readers new ways to think. Grades 5-8. --Ilene Cooper