Chasing Vermeer Study Guide

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Chasing Vermeer By Blue Balliet

Calder Pillay and Petra Andalee, two Chicago residents and good friends, live in the same neighborhood and go to the same school. Tommy Segovia used to life right across the street from Calder, and they were best friends - but Tommy moved away.

One day in class, Calder and Petra's teacher, Ms. Hussey, gets a strange un-addressed letter that informs her that the letter's writer has stolen A Lady Writing, a famous painting by Johannes Vermeer -- and will return it only after an 'age-old mistake' had been corrected. The letter claimed that certain people had painted works of art and they were incorrectly attributed to Vermeer, and that the letter's writer was going to correct this and get the paintings listed under the correct artist's names. Two other unrevealed people received nearly-identical letters.

Calder and Petra do lots of research on The Lady Writing and on Vermeer. Calder also uses a unique intuitive device: he carries around a set of twelve pentominos (they look like Tetris pieces) that look like letters of the alphabet, and when he needs an idea, he pulls out a random piece and waits for the first word that starts with that letter to pop into his head - and then he tries to apply that word to the problem in front of him.

In the end, the thief was Tommy's mother's boyfriend, who wrote the letters as a distraction. He actually simply stole the painting for money. The kids finally tracked the painting to a museum, as it hadn't been sold yet, and tried to steal it back. Unfortunately, the thief was waiting nearby, and when they accidentally tripped the alarm, he knew they had it. He chased them around for a while, but was eventually caught and returned to prison. In the end, the painting is safely returned to the museum.

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