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Chasing Vermeer
by Blue Balliett
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1.The Laboratory School at the University of Chicago is a real school where the author, Blue Balliett, taught while writing Chasing Vermeer. Have you been to Chicago and visited the U. of Chicago or the Art Institute?
2.Who was Vermeer? Talk about the two Vermeer paintings in the book. What do you see in the pictures? Do you like them? Why or why not.
3.Why do you think Calder and Petra both think the other is weird at first? Calder is an only child and Petra has several siblings. How does this difference make their home lives different? Would you rather be an only child or have many siblings?
4.What would you do if you received a mysterious letter like the three people in the beginning of the book? Do you think the characters did the right thing?
5.Petra and Calder are assigned to ask an adult about a letter they will never forget. Have you ever received a piece of mail you will never forget? If you were assigned to write a letter that the receiver wouldn't be able to forget, what would you write about?
6.What do you think makes an object a piece of art? Do you have anything at home you consider to be a piece of art?
7.Discuss pentominoes. Look around the room - do you see any pentomino shapes? Calder says on page 50 that "pentominoes always help him think." What do you do when you need to figure out how to do something?
8.Have you ever had a friend move away like Calder's friend Tommy? What did you and your friend do to stay in touch? What did Tommy's letter say?
9.Calder and Petra make friends with Mrs. Sharpe, who teaches them about art and helps them try to solve the mystery. Do you have a mentor? How did you meet him or her and what do you talk about?
10.Calder and Petra put a lot of faith in coincidences and dreams. Do you think truth can be found in dreams and coincidences? Have any unexplainable occurrences happened to you or someone you know? What were they?
11.Were you able to decipher the message in the illustrations? Did you notice anything on the cover?
12.What do you think about Petra and Calder's lists of clues - is this a good way to solve a mystery? Why or why not? Do you ever keep lists? Of what?
13.Would you be as brave as Calder and Petra in searching for the painting? At the end of the book, the thief chases Petra and Calder. What would you do if you were in their shoes?
14.Do you think the painting was stolen for a good reason? Is it possible to do something which seems wrong, (or even against the law,) for a positive outcome? Could a missing painting and a mystery unite a nation as the missing Vermeer painting did?
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