Review: The Wright 3, by Blue Balliett

Ms. Bookish’s Quick Take: The Wright 3 is a wonderful sequel to Balliet’s award-winning Chasing Vermeer. An elegant and literary mystery, The Wright 3 follows Petra and Calder, and Calder’s old friend Tommy as they become deeply immersed in the mystery of Frank Lloyd Wright’s Robie House. The three are drawn into an intricate world of codes and talismans, all somehow intertwined with the Invisible Man. This is a book that treats kids as the thinking, intelligent people they are; it makes for a wonderful read for both children and adults alike. Definitely one to add to your to-read list, or to buy for that child in your life who loves mysteries. See below for the full review.

From the jacket flap:

In this intricate, magnificently imagined sequel to Blue Balliett’s international bestseller, Chasing Vermeer, supersleuths Petra and Calder, along with Calder’s old friend, Tommy, are cryptically drawn into another art mystery – this time involving a Frank Lloyd Wright architectural masterpiece, the Robie House.

When the kids’ sixth-grade class attempts to save the Hyde Park landmark from demolition, eerie events are reported: Voices float out from within, shadows shift behind the art-glass windows, even the roof moves – like a waking beast! Suddenly, a well-meaning art restoratin project turns into a frightening search for ghosts, hidden treasure, and a coded message left behind by Wright. In this tangled web where life and art intermingle with death and danger, can the kids puruse justice and escape with their lives?

The Full Review of The Wright 3

The Wright 3 is a strong follow-up to Blue Balliett’s Chasing Vermeer. We get to enter into the world of Petra and Calder once again, only this time, Calder’s old friend has moved back to the neighborhood, forming what is, at first, a rather shaky triangle – Tommy resents Calder’s new friendship with Petra, and Petra is not very happy that Calder’s old friend has moved back home. As the mystery progresses, Tommy and Petra learn to trust each other as all three of them get more deeply enmeshed in the happenings at the Robie House.

The University of Chicago has decided that it must carve up Frank Lloyd Wright’s Robie House into sections and sell the pieces off to various museums around the world; the cost of maintenance and renovating the house are astronomical and it feels it cannot raise the funds to keep this historic landmark whole. Ms. Hussey, the kids’ sixth grade teacher – one of those teachers that we all wish we’d had – shows the kids that partitioning the house is nothing short of an act of murder. Together, the class begins to explore ways in which they might be able to help save the Robie House.

Against this backdrop, Calder is receiving messages through his pentominoes, Petra stumbles into a series of coincidences all involving the novel The Invisible Man and Tommy finds a treasure which may or may not have incredible value. As the three draw together and join forces, each lending his or her special ability to their quest, they become more certain of one thing: there is far more to the Robie House than meets the eye. In fact, the house appears to be trying to communicate with them.

The Wright 3 is a beautifully written mystery that engages the reader’s thinking processes in a very enjoyable way. Calder’s pentominoes and the geometric theme of triangles appear through the book, highlighting Wright’s genius in the construction of the Robie House. The writing is rich and engaging. For example, the scene where the sixth grade class demonstrates, showing the world that the destruction of a work of art like the Robie House is nothing short of murder, is quite moving.

Brett Helquist’s images are perfect illustrations for the book. Calder, Petra and Tommy are very much the way I saw them in my mind. There’s also a mystery in the illustrations (but don’t ask me for the answer!).

The Wright 3 is a very satisfying read for children and adults alike. If you haven’t read Chasing Vermeer, you’ll probably find yourself getting yourself a copy of it right after you finish the Wright 3. Not to mention Calder Game, the next in the series. That one is on my to-be-reviewed pile. In the meantime, The Wright 3 is very definitely Highly Recommended. Ms. Bookish’s Rating: A+: A Keeper ?

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