And Then I Read: THE CALDER GAME by Blue Balliett

Cover and illustrations by Brett Helquist

The third in a series of art-related mystery novels for young readers, following “Chasing Vermeer” and “The Wright 3,” this one focuses on the mobile art of Alexander Calder. In Chicago, the three friends, Tommy, Calder (named after the artist) and Petra, are having a hard time dealing with their new teacher, Ms. Button, who is absurdly strict. When they attend an exhibition of the art and mobiles of Alexander Calder at the Museum of Contemporary Art, she hardly lets them enjoy it at all. Despite that, all three are fascinated by Calder’s ever-changing mobile art and an interactive section called the Calder Game that allows visitors to design their own mobiles on paper.

Calder (the boy) is leaving for a trip to England with his father, who is attending a conference in Oxford. They stay in a bed and breakfast in the town of Woodstock just outside the national treasure Blenheim Palace, which Calder hopes to explore while his father is in Oxford. Both Pillays are surprised to see a large red Alexander Calder sculpture in Woodstock near where they’re staying, recently donated and installed by a wealthy person who wishes to remain anonymous. Most of the book follows Calder as he investigates this mystery, encountering much suspicion and anger from Woodstock residents who don’t like the sculpture, and it’s possible connection to the exhibit in Chicago. Calder also explores the features of Blenheim’s grounds, like a hedge maze, and as he’s beginning to find clues to the mystery, he suddenly disappears. Calder’s father invites Tommy and Petra to join him in Woodstock to try to find his missing son, as the police seem baffled. Will they be able to succeed when the police can’t?

A fine read, and again an interesting way to learn more about an artist. Recommended.

The Calder Game by Blue Balliett

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