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Chasing Vermeer

Page history last edited by Wendy Rooney 10 years, 2 months ago



"Chasing Vermeer is a puzzle, wrapped in a mystery, disguised as an adventure, and delivered as a work of art."





About the Book
The mystery begins when three people who live in Chicago receive the same, strange letter. They are invited to help solve a century-old crime. The author of the letter threatens each reader if he or she shows it to the authorities. A short time later, a very famous painting, A Lady Writing, vanishes while being transported from a museum in Washington, D.C., to Chicago. There are questions to be answered, who took the Vermeer painting and where did they hide it? Working against time are two young sleuths, Calder and Petra, who find out their very different strengths complement each other to help solve this mystery. The clues woven throughout the book come together to make exciting reading with a surprise ending!


Genre: Mystery

     A mystery is a story in which the characters and the reader must use clues to find the explanation for a troubling event. 
  In the beginning of a mystery story, the author describes a puzzling situation.  The characters in the story try to find out who did something or how it happened. 

  To solve a problem, a character often compares new information with facts that were gathered earlier. 

     In a mystery, a clue might be in plain sight all along.  The author tells the story in such a way that neither the characters nor the reader becomes aware of the clue right away. 



Mystery Vocabulary: 


mystery, crime, detectives, suspects, motives, clues, evidence, red herringsforeshadowing, suspense, problem solving, analyzing, cause & effect, logical deduction


Mystery Vocabulary  - Save to your H DRIVE



 http://www.essentialvermeer.com/vermeer_painting_part_one.html - VerMeer Catalogue


http://teacher.scholastic.com/activities/flashlightreaders/main.asp?bookpass=4 - Chasing Vermeer - Flashlight Reader


 http://www.usd376.com/hs/staff/brownleea/vermeer/index.htm - Chasing Vermeer My Personal Art Gallery Project


http://www.essentialvermeer.com/ - The Essential Vermeer - Info on Johannes Vermeer, Paintings


http://www.gbt.org/gallery.html - Vermeer Paintings




 http://suzyred.com/2005vermeer.html - Chasing Vermeer


http://www.bakerandhill.com/work/billy/ - Billy the Kid


http://scholastic.com/titles/chasingvermeer/pentominoes.pdf - Printable Pentominoes


http://www.scholastic.com/blueballiett/games/index.htm - Pentominoes Activity & Other Activities


http://www.scholastic.com/blueballiett/games/art_games.htm - Masterpiece Match


http://www.scholastic.com/blueballiett/games/art_games.htm - Art Reporter Activities



http://www.ashlandschools.org/morgan_cottle/vermeer/ - Chasing Vermeer - Mystery in a Mystery


http://www.adifferentplace.org/vermeer.htm - Chasing Vermeer Activities


http://www.nga.gov/kids/kids.htm - National Gallery of Art for Kids


http://www.readingquest.org/strat/storymaps.html - Mystery Story Maps


http://www.mapsofworld.com/world-city-maps/ - World Maps




 http://www.scholastic.com/blueballiett/games/pentominoes_game.htm - Pentaomino


http://www.enchantedmind.com/puzzles/pentamino/pentamino.html - Pentaomino - Enchanted Mind Puzzles


http://www.coolmagnetman.com/pent.htm - Pentaomino - Cool Magnet Man




http://www.interpol.int/Public/WorkOfArt/Default.asp - Interpol - ART THEFT



http://www.essentialvermeer.com/ - The Essential Vermeer


http://cybermuse.gallery.ca/cybermuse/youth/style/index_e.jsp - Cyber Muse - Discover Your Art Style


http://www.fbi.gov/fun-games/kids/kids - FBI for Kids



http://www.resologist.net/lo101.htm - The Lo Book by Charles Hoy Fort




Flying Objects...for Real?  Use the internet to research the weird phenomena of random objects falling from the sky.  Recently, dead birds were falling from the sky all over the world.



  Falling Objects


 http://theunexplainedmysteries.com/unexplained-fall.html - Mysterious Objects falling from the sky





Chasing Vermeer - Vocabulary Words Ch. 1 - 24.pdf






Homophones in Chasing Vermeer


Mourning (13)/morning (13), canvasses/canvases (104), sell/cell (158), great/grate (156), pray/prey (170), peak/peek (211), complement/compliment (244)




Chasing Vermeer Study Guide




Chapters 1-4

  1. Why are Calder and the other students fascinated by Ms. Hussey and the way she conducted her class?



  1. How did Calder relate his pentomino pieces to Ms. Hussey’s first assignment?



  1. Why was Petra upset by her encounters with Calder and Ms. Hussey at Powell’s Used Books?



  1. Why was Petra unhappy at home?



  1. Why did the author describe both Petra and Calder as “hybrid kids?



  1. Why do you think each of the three people received the letter?




  1. Why do you think Petra’s mother and father argued about a letter and then destroyed it?




  1. What is being personified in this sentence? “This year a trumpet vine leaned eagerly against a cool lily, pointy leaves fought to see who could take over the steps, purples and blood reds argued loudly with each other.”



  1. What is being compared in the following sentence? “Petra’s household was a tornado where life swirled in noisy circles? What is the real meaning of the metaphor?





Chapters 5-8

  1. Why was Petra fascinated with Lo!, a strange book written by Charles Fort?





  1. What did Petra learn from her vision of the old-fashioned woman who appeared to her in a half-dream?




  1. Why did Calder choose the picture on his cherished wooden box to fulfill Ms. Hussey’s art assignment?




  1. Why did Mrs. Sharpe invite Calder and Petra to tea?




  1. Why was Calder fascinated with the life and work of the artist Jan Vermeer?




  1. Why was Petra shocked to see a copy of the painting “A Lady Writing” in Calder’s book of Vermeer paintings?




  1. Do you think Calder gave his friend Tommy good advice in the coded message?




  1. Why do you suppose it was in Calder’s yard that Petra found a copy of the mysterious letter? Who do you think discarded the letter?




  1. A cliffhanger is a device in which a chapter ends at a moment of suspense to encourage the reader to continue on in the book. What is the cliffhanger at the end of Chapter five?



Chapters 9-12

  1. Why did Calder and Petra begin to do research on Vermeer’s life?



  1. Why did Calder and Petra telephone the National Gallery of Art?



  1. Why did Calder worry about his father?



  1. Why were Petra and Calder particularly upset about the theft of the Vermeer painting, A Lady Writing?



  1. Why were Calder and Petra worried about Ms. Hussey?




  1. Why was The Lady Writing stolen?




  1. Why was Calder amazed as soon as he entered Mrs. Sharpe’s kitchen?





  1. How did Mrs. Sharpe respond to Petra’s and Calder’s questions? Why did her reaction make them think she might be involved in the art theft?





  1. Foreshadowing refers to the clues or hints an author provides to suggest what will happen later in the novel. What might Ms. Hussey’s accident foreshadow?




Chapters 13-16

  1. Why did the authorities decide to ban the publication of future messages from the art bandit?



  1. Why did Calder think that he has to rescue Tommy?




  1. What did Calder’s father recall about the late Mr. Sharpe? Why did the children doubt the accuracy of his remarks?




  1. Why did Mrs. Sharpe request police protection?




  1. Why was Ms. Hussey released from jail so quickly?




  1. What conclusion did Petra and Calder jump to concerning Ms. Hussey and Mrs. Sharpe’s connection to the art theft?



  1. Why did Petra and Calder decide to search the University school premises for the missing canvas?




  1. Do you suspect that any of the characters in the story are guilty of the art theft?if yes, who?




  1. How do you think the fate of Mrs. Sharpe’s husband might have influenced her behavior in the Vermeer case?





Chapters 17-20

  1. In what ways did the Vermeer art theft have positive results?




  1. Why was Mrs. Sharpe taken to the hospital?




  1. How were Petra and Calder saved from “a life of crime”?




  1. Why did Mrs. Sharpe forgive the children after Petra confessed that they had almost opened her letter?




  1. How did Tommy add more mystery to the Vermeer art theft?




  1. How did Mrs. Sharpe seem to give Petra and Calder clues to the whereabouts of the missing painting?





  1. Do you think that the theft of the painting turned out to have more good or bad consequences?




  1. Do you believe that the seemingly mysterious events were connected, or do you think they were simply coincidences? Explain




  1. What is being personified in the following sentence? “The blue shadows of late afternoon were menacing now.”





Chapters 21-24

  1. Why did Calder and Petra call Mrs. Sharpe at the hospital? How did she respond to them?




  1. Why did Calder and Petra enter Delia Dell Hall through the basement entrance?




  1. Why was Petra suspicious of her own father’s presence in Delia Dell Hall?




  1. Why was the number twelve significant to Calder and Petra?




  1. Why did Calder steal a “Danger” sign? Was this a successful strategy?




  1. Why didn’t the policeman believe Petra when she said that the man who assaulted Calder was in possession of the stolen Vermeer painting?



  1. Why had the thief pretend to be an art scholar and gone to so much trouble to get his hands on the Vermeer painting?




  1. Why wasn’t the thief ever arrested and brought to trail for the theft of the painting?




  1. What did Mrs. Sharpe and the children believe after putting together all of the patterns based on the number twelve?






Chasing Vermeer Discussion Guide

After reading Chasing Vermeer, use these questions to start a discussion with your students about the book. After your in-class conversation, students can access similar questions and share their thoughts with other kids around the country on the Book Bulletin Board.

Also consider using any of these questions as a writing prompt.

  1. Imagine you're one of the three characters to receive the mysterious letter. How would you respond to the letter? Would you keep the secret? Explain.
  2. Answer a question similar to Ms. Hussey's: What's the most important piece of mail (or email) you've ever received? How did you respond?
  3. Ms. Hussey asks the students, "What is art?" What do you think art is? Does it have to be tangible? Can anyone create it?
  4. Calder and Petra become great observers of patterns in the real world. What patterns do you see? Think about buildings, nature, your schedule, your behavior...
  5. Calder has a special box with a Vermeer painting on it. If you had a special box, what would you keep inside it? Why?
  6. Petra creates a Halloween costume of the lady in the painting. What's the most creative Halloween costume you can imagine?
  7. Calder and Petra create a special ritual of eating a blue M&M every time they take the next step in solving the mystery. What rituals do you have after you accomplish a task? For example, how do you celebrate a good grade on a test? If you have no special rituals, what could you begin doing?
  8. Towards the end of the novel, Calder and Petra get separated while saving the painting. If you were Petra, would you have left Calder on the slide? If you would stay, how would you save the painting? If you would leave, would you have made the same choices as Petra?
  9. Throughout the story we see Calder and Petra unable to trust the adults in their lives with the mystery they must solve. Have you ever felt like you needed an adult's help but couldn't get it? How did you solve your problem?
  10. In many scenes, we see Calder and Petra spending time with an elderly member of their community. Is there an elderly person in your life? What do you do with them, and what have you learned from spending time together?
  11. There are plans for a movie version of Chasing Vermeer. Which scenes from the book are essential and must be included? Which elements do you think the studio could save time and money by leaving out?




http://www.studyguide.org/ChasingVermeer.htm - Study Guide 



When a priceless Vermeer painting is stolen on its way to Chicago for a special exhibition, sixth graders Petra and Calder team up and follow a wild assortment of clues in an attempt to solve the mystery and rescue the painting from destruction.

General Review:

Sixth graders Petra and Calder become friends when they are drawn into a suspenseful mystery revolving around a stolen Vermeer painting. This story combines mystery, art, puzzles and codes, patterns, and coincidences to produce a fascinating tale that invites the reader to play “armchair detective” to discover how all the pieces of the story fit together. Illustrator Brett Helquist adds to the fun by hiding clues and a secret code in the pictures. Mystery fans will love this intriguing book that breaks the mold of the traditional mystery story.

Themes: Mysteries; Art; Coincidence; Secret Codes; Johannes Vermeer (artist).

Author Information:

BookPage Interview with Blue Balliett: Mystery at the Museum


Scholastic.com Author & Illustrator Index. Scroll down and click on Blue Balliett. http://www.scholastic.com/librarians/ab/biolist.htm

Scholastic.com Moderated Author Chat


Blue Balliett. Contemporary Authors Online, Thomson Gale, 2005. (available online through free Kan-Ed access to Literature Resource Center)

“Story behind the story: Blue Balliett's Chasing Vermeer.” (Interview) Ilene Cooper. Booklist, May 1, 2004 v100 i17 p1496(1) (available online through free Kan-Ed access to InfoTrac)

Scholastic Book Fair video Fall 2005 includes a feature on Chasing Vermeer and interview with the author.

Discussion Questions: (Standard 3, Benchmark 3

  1. What is art? What makes a piece of art valuable?
  2. Discuss events in the story that seem like coincidences but come together at the end to help solve the mystery.
  3. Identify events from the story that are classic parts of a mystery: the crime, clues, motive, alibi, red herring, etc. You will find a great list of mystery terms at http://www.readwritethink.org/lesson_images/lesson865/words.pdf (part of the online lesson plan What's in a Mystery? Exploring and Identifying Mystery Elements ).
  4. Discuss the importance of patterns in the story, especially the use of pentominoes.

Activity Suggestions:

1. Go to Scholastic’s Chasing Vermeer site http://scholastic.com/titles/chasingvermeer/index.htm to play an online pentominoes game, get the Reader’s Challenge hints and solution (no peeking until you’ve tried it on your own!), and to print your own set of pentominoes. (Standard 3, Benchmark 3)

2. Library Sparks magazine online has a wonderful FREE web resource file of word puzzles and codes in their January 2005 edition at http://www.highsmith.com/webapp/wcs/stores/servlet/Production/LSP/pages/2005_pdfs/lsp_jan05_vermeer.pdf. Students don’t have to have read Chasing Vermeer to enjoy these activities, and it could be a great way to introduce the book to students. (Standard 3, Benchmark 3)

3. Study the work of Vermeer or other famous artists. Study different types and styles of art. Compare and contrast the work of different artists. Visit an art museum, either in person, through a book, or virtually through the web. Students could create their own “art museum” by choosing their favorite pieces of art and explaining why they would have them in their personal collection. (Standard 1, Benchmark 1; Standard 3, Benchmark 2; Standard 5, Benchmark 2)

National Gallery of Art: links to Vermeer works


Other good art resources online:

1. Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York


2. ArtCyclopedia (a guide to great art on the Internet)


Search for works by Vermeer or another artist of your choice.

3. The Louvre in Paris, France


4. Author Blue Balliett was awarded the 2004 Chicago Tribune Prize for Young Adult Fiction (see article online at http://www.writenews.com/2004/072304_tribune_balliett.htm). Do you think her book deserves this award? Why or why not? Imagine you have been chosen to introduce her. Write a speech that explains why Chasing Vermeer won this award and why the author deserves to be honored. (Standard 3, Benchmark 3; Standard 3, Benchmark 4)






http://www.princetonol.com/groups/iad/lessons/middle/for-kids.htm - Art for Kids


http://www.rcs.k12.va.us/art/links2.htm - Art Education Sites


http://smartmuseum.uchicago.edu/smartkids/home.html - University of Chicago - Museum of Art - Kids


http://www.nga.gov/kids/zone/zone.htm - Art for Kids - GOV




Chasing_Vermeer_1-3_assessment - Van Gogh.doc  


Chasing_Vermeer_ch_1-3_alternative_assessment- Picasso.doc  


Character Graphic Organizer.pdf  






Activity #1--What is art?  How do people interpret it differently?  Is there a right and wrong way at looking at a piece of art?  We are going to look at some very famous pieces of art.  As you study each piece, record your response on your "How Art Makes Me Feel" record sheet.  Think about the colors the artist used, the theme of the paintings, the style in which they were painted, etc. 



CV Art Intro.ppt 



Now that you have had the opportunity to experience some exquisite pieces of art, write a personal reflection.  Compare and contrast the paintings you saw, which is your favorite and why, would you enjoy studying art from around the world and why?  **you may go back to the slide show to help you write your reflection**


Activity #2--Setting up your Chasing Vermeer Journal

     You will create an electronic journal to use while reading our novel.  It will include a cover, Journal pages for individual chapters, a vocabulary page, and reading responses.

     *The cover will be a collage of famous artwork, mystery pictures, and mystery and geometry words.

     *You will need a page for each chapter (unless your teachers tell you otherwise, some chapters might be combined into one page).  Each page will contain the following items:

           a.  chapter summary

          b.  track characters' actions and feelings

          c.  list clues

          d.  record predictions 


Activity #3

     Ms. Hussey is not your ordinary kind of teacher.  She has many qualitites that make her a bit "unique!"  One of her class assignments was to write a very unusual letter to her.  We are going to practice writing friendly letters, but instead of writing a letter to Ms. Hussey, you are going to write a letter to a friend describing your unconventional and bit wacky teacher, Ms. Hussey.  To make this task more efficient, we are going to use the Letter Generator.  Click here to open it up and begin.   




Activity #4

     The genre mystery has some story elements that are only found in mysteries.   In groups of 4, we are going to analyze mysteries in which we are familiar.  Your group will talk about the setting, characters, plot, suspense, clues, distractions, and structure of the mystery.  One person will be responsible for recording your answers.  In a few minutes we will share our mysteries with each other.


Activity #5--Chapters 1-3 Vocab

     You will be put into small groups to work on making a "vocab" poster.  The poster must include the word, the part of speech, the definition, the sentence from the book, and a picture.  Your poster must be done in color.  You will have 15 minutes to work on this activity.  Once we are finished, your group will share your poster with the rest of the class.  As each group presents, we will be adding the vocab onto the vocab page of our E-Journals.



Using the key at the back of your book, you will be writing a letter in secret code to a classmate.  Address your letter simply "Dear Classmate,"  You will write a letter that tells your opinion of our book so far.  It must be between 3 and 5 sentences.  Once we are all finished, we will exchange secret code letters and decipher them.  Don't forget to sign your own name.


Chapter 4 - 6 Assessment


Directions:  Answer the following questions in COMPLETE sentences or a short paragraph.  Remember we need to see QUALITY 6th grade work.  You may go back to the text to find examples to support your answers.


*Please use a different color font to answer the questions.*



1.  What did Picasso say about art?  How does Calder rephrase the statement?  (pages 36-38)


2.  What is the next assignment Ms. Hussey gives the class?  What question should the assignment answer?  (page 36)


3.  What gets stranger the more Petra thinks about it?  What conclusion does she reach? (page 40)


4.  What book does Petra find?  What is it about?  (pages 41-42)


5.  How does Petra put Charles Fort’s ideas into her own words?  (page 45)


6.  What does Petra wish she studied in school?  Do you agree with her?  (page 46)


7.  Who appears to Petra?  How does Petra describe this person’s world?  How does this person make Petra feel? (pages 47-49)


8.  How does Calder describe the expression of the man in his box’s painting?  Why does Calder relate to this man?  (page 52)


9.  What does Tommy’s letter say? (pages 56-57)


10.  What kind of person is “Old Fred?”  (pages 58-59)

Chapters 7 - 9 


Using only your laptop ONLY--create a picture dictionary for

Chapters 7-9 vocab.  You can find the list of vocab words in the link

below.  Each word must include an illustration/photo/graphic of the

word's meaning.  Each word is equal to 10 points, so the more you

get completed the better your grade.  You may use any electronic

format to create your dictionary.  Once you save it, you will upload

it directly on this page.

Chapters 7-9 Vocab List



Speculative Writing Assignment

Charles Fort wrote about the mysterious disappearance of a young man in Michigan and the mysterious appearances of six people in England.  Imagine that you are one of the people mentioned.  Write a story telling what happened to you.

Be sure to write NEATLY so we can read it.  Remember how important it is to hook your reader at the beginning of your story. Check your story for correct punctuation, spelling, and grammar.  Make an effort to use some of the WOW/Vocabulary words you have learned so far this year.  We know we are going to be reading some fabulous tales!



Art Appreciation Activity





Art Criticism Activities



Starry Night - Vincent Van Gogh - Student Sample Critiques





WDMS Art Gallery - Critique



Name: _______________________________________

Group Critique


As you go around the room and see all the displayed paintings, answer the following questions. After you write your comments on each handout, initial next to your comments. You may critique 10 different projects throughout the room. This will give you approximately 2 minutes per critique. Be prepared to write complete coherent sentences. QUALITY of answer is just as important as quantity. Giving good, meaningful critiques is the goal.

Important tip to remember:

Constructive criticism does not ‘hurt’. The purpose of constructive criticism is to pick out what you like about the project and add helpful commentary or suggestions on how to make it even better. Keep this in mind when you write your critique. This is a positive experience.

***Why did you pick this project to critique? What is it about this painting that caught your attention? What suggestions do you have to make it better? Does something need to be ‘fixed”? Do you like it? Why or why not?

  1. ____________________________________________________________

  2. ____________________________________________________________

  3. ____________________________________________________________

  4. ____________________________________________________________

  5. ____________________________________________________________

  6. ____________________________________________________________

  7. ____________________________________________________________

  8. ____________________________________________________________

  9. ____________________________________________________________

  10. ____________________________________________________________


Art Critique Form



Art Galleries




Bloom's Taxonomy for Art 



What is your opinion of the painting?  



What ways would you render the subject differently?



Explain what you think the artist is trying to 
say about the subject matter.



If you could interview the artist, what 
questions would you ask?



What is the subject or theme?



Describe the painting.



Descriptive Words to Use in a Formal Analysis of Art






full of spaces






earth, air, fire, water
farming festivals
of historic occasions


colored pencil
egg tempera
found materials
vine charcoal

found materials
mixed media


jewelry making






Tic-Tac-Toe Choice Board

Chasing Vermeer Chapters 10-12

You must answer any 3 questions, but they must go straight across, up and down, or diagonally.



Why isn’t A Lady Writing at the NationalWhy do you think this was her first Gallery of Art?  What do Calder and Petra think about this?  (pp. 92-94)



Which pentomino does Calder grab when asking for information about Frog?  What does Calder think the letter stand for? (pp. 94-95)


How is Petra’s dad acting differently?  What do his actions tell you about him?

 (pp. 95-96)


What does Petra hear her dad mutter?  What is her first thought?  Why do you think this was her first thought?



What about the theft of A Lady Writing concerns the museum curator?  Why does the curator say the theft is targeted for an individual collection?  (p. 100)


Why does Ms. Hussey’s injury seem sinister to Calder and Petra?  (p. 104)


What does Ms. hussy say about the thief that worries Petra?  Why does this worry Petra?  (pp. 105-106)



How does the thief justify stealing A Lady Writing?  What is the reason for the theft?  (p. 108)


Why does Ms. Hussey’s classroom become a combination of museum and laboratory?  (pp. 112-113)

Everyone MUST answer these questions.

1.  How would you summarize Calder and Petra’s experience at Mrs. Sharpe’s house?  (pp.  116-122)


2.  How does Petra discover a clue?  How does Calder react?  (p. 125)



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