Monday, May 9, 2011

Middle School Monday: The Arlington-Area Art Mystery Tour

To start off this week, Katie takes us on a hunt for Art in Arlington...
 Some books are intended to entertain; others strive to make you think; and the best sort of books do both those things and more. The Art Mysteries” by Blue Balliett (and illustrated by Brett Helquist) are definitely in that third group. Balliet writes for a younger audience than I usually read, but with spring break season upon us and summer vacation just around the corner, I couldn’t resist sharing these books that tie in so perfectly with some adventures you can have in the area thanks to a bit of geographic serendipity.
And so without further ado: The Arlington-Area Art Mystery Tour.
Sixth graders Petra and Calder are neighbors and not yet friends when the series begins. But when seemingly unrelated and strange events start to happen and a precious Vermeer painting disappears, it is up to this unlikely duo to combine their puzzle solving skills to track down an international art thief.
Destination #1: To see Vermeer’s work for yourself, including Petra’s favorite A Lady Writing (above), head to the National Gallery of Art (West Building). Tucked away with the Dutch Masters, you’ll find two Vermeer paintings and another work “Attributed to Vermeer” (which I found especially interesting in light of the events in Chasing Vermeer).
Calder’s best friend has returned to Chicago and finds his friendship with Calder changed since Petra entered the picture. But when mysterious coincidences start occurring, Calder, Petra, and Tommy must put aside their differences to keep Frank Lloyd Wright's famous Robie House from being demolished.
Destination #2: Frank Lloyd Wright is America’s most famous architect, and remarkably, you can find homes he designed all over the country. The Pope-Leighey House (not featured in The Wright 3) is in Alexandria, Virginia. Or you can stop by the National Building Museum to see the Lego Architecture exhibit that includes a Lego version of Wright’s masterpiece Fallingwater.
Now in seventh grade, Calder is on vacation with his dad when he disappears--along with an Alexander Calder sculpture--from a remote English village. It’s up to Petra and Tommy fly from Chicago to help his father find him.
Destination #3: This third book is the one that finally got me off the couch and down to the museums. The picture above is the magnificent Calder mobile that hangs in the forum at the entrance of the National Gallery of Art (East Building). It’s impossible to capture the size of this structure using an iPhone camera. Check it out for yourself.
These books were written for a middle school audience, but the questions they tackle will interest readers of all ages. And maybe, if you’re like me, you’ll suddenly see art and the world around you in a whole new way.
Other excellent art-related teen reads include I Am Rembrandt’s Daughter by Lynn Cullen and Heist Society by Ally Carter (one of my favorites from 2010).

No comments: