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Debra Hamel is the mother of two preternaturally attractive girls and the author of a number of books about ancient Greece. She writes and blogs from her subterranean lair in North Haven, CT. Read more.


Books by Debra Hamel:

THE BATTLE OF ARGINUSAE :
VICTORY AT SEA AND ITS TRAGIC AFTERMATH IN THE FINAL YEARS OF THE PELOPONNESIAN WAR
By Debra Hamel


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KILLING ERATOSTHENES:
A TRUE CRIME STORY
FROM ANCIENT ATHENS
By Debra Hamel


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READING HERODOTUS:
A GUIDED TOUR THROUGH THE WILD BOARS, DANCING SUITORS, AND CRAZY TYRANTS OF THE HISTORY
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THE MUTILATION OF THE HERMS:
UNPACKING AN ANCIENT MYSTERY
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TRYING NEAIRA:
THE TRUE STORY OF A COURTESAN'S SCANDALOUS LIFE IN ANCIENT GREECE
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SOCRATES AT WAR:
THE MILITARY HEROICS OF AN ICONIC INTELLECTUAL
By Debra Hamel


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ANCIENT GREEKS IN DRAG:
THE LIBERATION OF THEBES AND OTHER ACTS OF HEROIC TRANSVESTISM
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IT WAS A DARK AND STORMY TWEET:
FIVE HUNDRED 1ST LINES IN 140 CHARACTERS OR LESS
By Debra Hamel


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PRISONERS OF THE PELOPONNESIAN WAR
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Balliett, Blue: Chasing Vermeer

  Amazon  

4 stars

Eleven-year-olds Calder Pilsay and Petra Andalee live three houses away from each other on a narrow street in Chicago's Hyde Park area. They are both unusually intelligent, Petra the sort of quirkily interesting kid whom others in her class consequently label as "weird," while Calder excels at patterning. He fidgets incessantly with the set of pentominoes he keeps with him at all times, fitting the Tetris-like shapes together to form rectangles of varying sizes. Both Calder and Petra, too, are unusually receptive to the idea that is a theme of this book, that apparent coincidences are not always coincidental. When the coincidences and various unexplained phenomena in their own lives begin piling up--many of them connected with the painter Vermeer--Calder and Petra come to believe that a particular Vermeer painting will be stolen. When it is, they believe themselves peculiarly suited to finding it.

While observing and recording suspicious activity in their own neighborhood, Calder and Petra put their considerable talents to use investigating the theft of the painting and tracking it down. The problem is, it's not intellect alone that they apply to the task: Calder believes that his pentominoes give him hints, while Petra finds herself communicating with the subject of the missing Vermeer painting. Led forward thus by their supernatural helpmates, Calder and Petra make implausible mental leaps that, for this reader at least, make suspension of disbelief impossible.

Though its plot is a disappointment, and it never packs any true suspense, Chasing Vermeer has much to recommend it: likeable characters, some nice writing, Brett Helquist's drawings, and the use of codes in the book, based on Calder's pentominoes. The story may also get kids thinking more about art, as the author surely intended. The inclusion of reprints of two of Vermeer's paintings is a nice touch.

Comments

1.

I read the book in school and I really enjoyed the secret codes we had to find out to go onto the next chapter...

2.

You might like Ellen Raskin's The Westing Game too, then.

3.

My girl loves this book its an amazing book I read it to her and I personally think its amazing

4.

too many coincidences

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