Blue Balliett (1955-) Biography
Personal, Addresses, Career, Writings, Work in Progress, Sidelights
Born 1955; Education: Attended Brown University.
Agent—Amanda Lewis, Doe Coover Agency, P.O. Box 668, Winchester, MA 01890.
University of Chicago Laboratory School, Chicago, IL, third-grade teacher, c. 1980-2002; freelance writer.
The Ghosts of Nantucket: Twenty-three True Accounts, Down East Books (Camden, ME), 1984.
Nantucket Hauntings, Down East Books, 1990.
Chasing Vermeer, illustrated by Brett Helquist, Scholastic Press (New York, NY), 2003.
Work in Progress
A second novel for children featuring the characters from Chasing Vermeer, due in spring, 2006.
Blue Balliett is the author of Chasing Vermeer, a children's mystery novel about two sixth-graders who attempt to solve the mystery of a missing painting. Friends and fellow middle-school students Petra Andalee and Calder Pillay share a common interest in unexplained phenomena. Therefore, when it appears that some of seventeenth-century Dutch artist Johannes Vermeer's paintings may have actually been painted by someone else, the pair is quickly united in their search for the answer. The plot thickens when one of Vermeer's famous paintings mysteriously disappears while being transported from the National Gallery to Chicago's Art Institute, leaving the budding sleuths following a trail of clues that leads to their very own Chicago neighborhood.
Reviewer Marie Orlando, reviewing Chasing Vermeer in School Library Journal, praised Balliett's debut children's book, noting that "Puzzles, codes, letters, number and wordplay, a bit of danger, a vivid sense of place, and a wealth of quirky characters" help make the book an "exciting, fast-paced story that's sure to be relished by mystery lovers." A Publishers Weekly contributor also enjoyed the book, stating that the author's "ingeniously plotted and lightly delivered first novel … also touches on the nature of coincidence, truth, art and similarly meaty topics."
Balliett spent five years writing Chasing Vermeer, and she drew much of her inspiration from her ten-year-long career teaching third graders, as well as from her own lifelong love of fine art. She was also inspired by her love of codes, enigmas, and the patterns found in life, all of which, Balliett contends, young people almost instinctively grasp. As she explained to a Publishers Weekly interviewer, children "have an ability to see connections and to put the world together in so much more of an elastic and fluid way than adults." Scattered throughout the text, along with the puzzles, wordplay, and other mind benders, are enough misleading clues to keep readers interested, added Orlando, comparing Chasing Vermeer to novels by popular juvenile fiction writers Ellen Raskin and E. L. Konigsburg.
Biographical and Critical Sources
Atlantic Monthly, September, 1984, Phoebe-Lou Adams, review of The Ghosts of Nantucket, p. 128.
Booklist, April 1, 2004, Ilene Cooper, review of Chasing Vermeer, p. 1365; May 1, 2004, Ilene Cooper, review of Chasing Vermeer, p. 1496.
Horn Book, July-August, 2004, Peter D. Sieruta, review of Chasing Vermeer, p. 446.
Kirkus Reviews, May 15, 2004, review of Chasing Vermeer, p. 487.
Publishers Weekly, June 14, 2004, review of Chasing Vermeer, p. 63; June 28, 2004, "Flying Starts," p. 19.
School Library Journal, July, 2004, Marie Orlando, review of Chasing Vermeer, p. 98.
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