Friday, 8 November 2013

Review: The Calder Game by Blue Balliett

Title: The Calder Game
Author: Blue Balliett
Series: Chasing Vermeer #3
Release Date: May 1st, 2008
Publisher: Scholastic Press
Buy: Amazon | Book Depository
Goodreads Summary

Petra, Calder, and Tommy, the sleuths at the center of the amazing CHASING VERMEER and THE WRIGHT 3, are back with a labyrinthine new mystery to solve.

When Calder Pillay travels with his father to a remote village in England, he finds a mix of mazes and mystery . . . including an unexpected Alexander Calder sculpture in the town square. Calder is strangely drawn to the sculpture, while other people have less-than-friendly feelings towards it. Both the boy and the sculpture seem to be out of place . . . and then, on the same night, they disappear! Calder's friends Petra and Tommy must fly out to help his father find him. But this mystery has more twists and turns than a Calder mobile . . . with more at stake than first meets the eye.

I believe this is the first time in a couple of years that I read a middle grade book. The only reason I even picked it up was because I had read the first two books in the series in middle school and adored them. So I set out to complete the series.

It was such an interesting experience because middle grade is so different from YA and Adult and it was just so refreshing.

But with that said it’s pretty hard to say anything about this book because I have no idea how I feel about it.

While it was different it didn’t induce the same excitement the first two books had for the younger me. Yes you could argue that I’ve grown up since and expect a lot more out of books. The fact that I liked almost every book I read back then doesn’t help either, but the fact that I liked almost every book I read back then could also mean that I had great taste. After all the only book that had angered me was Twilight (there is a story behind that).

I don’t remember a lot about the first two books so I could be wrong, but I feel like the mystery in the first two books was very well developed and a lot more interesting compared to this one. The only thing that was going on in this book was the search for Calder, which didn’t really keep me on my toes. The ending was rushed and I didn’t really understand what had happened. It also bordered on unrealistic.

I realize I shouldn’t be so critical of a middle grade book because it’s aimed at a younger audience who aren't as likely to be bothered by those little things but I AM a reader.

“..Cader the Math Whiz, Tommy the Finder, Petra the Scribbler..”

With that said I really enjoyed the characters. They were such a refreshing change from the angst filled teenagers of YA and the complicated adults of Adult (that sounded better in my head). It was just incredibly fun to read about these characters who always meant what they said. Their innocence was refreshing.

For example Tommy and Petra do NOT like each other (in the beginning). If this had been a YA the author would have played off this hate and made it into a romance, yet there were no romantic feelings between the two. The author actually developed their friendship. I almost cried (tears of joy of course) because I am so fed up of the whole hot and cold shit.

Calder wasn’t there for a large chunk of the book but he was definitely missed. I remember him being my favorite character and I think I would have liked the book a whole lot better had he been there to help solve the mystery. He was always an interesting character. And adorable too. He is always thinking about puzzles and is pretty smart but he tends to misspell words all the time.

Petra can sometimes be slightly condescending the way pre-teens can sometimes be. It always made me laugh when she criticized Tommy in her head and how she said eww so often. She is pretty smart too.

Tommy.. was interesting. He kind of reminds me of a stereotypical pre-teen. Messy and unorganized. He loves collecting treasure and (in my opinion) isn’t as smart as Calder and Petra but he has his own charm.

Mrs. Sharpe, who I don’t really remember from the previous books (I am getting old okay?) was interesting I suppose but I don’t understand why she would so readily help these kids much less pay for the expenses. I am glad that the author actually provided them with a chaperone who was sharp (see what I did there?) but it came off a tad bit unrealistic.

So did Walter Pillay for that matter. While I am glad the author develops a healthy parent-child relationship, Walter’s speech bothered me. He didn’t sound like an adult. He sounded like a kid. Again I realize that this is a book meant for pre-teens and so it would be more suitable to have the father sound like a child but it bothered me.

I guess in the end this book was enjoyable, but the mystery fell flat. I do hope to read another middle-grade in the near future but I honestly don’t know. Maybe if I want a break when I get fed up from reading so much angst in YA, NA and Adult. 


  1. I always find myself being critical of MG books in the same way that I might be of YA books, though I don't ever really know if I should go about it a different way (it's why I hardly ever review them now!). But it is nice to dive into this category every now and again, especially if you want to take a break from the older options. Thanks for the helpful review!

  2. Exactly! So if I do pick up another one I don't think I should review it, just enjoy it.
    Thanks Sam! :)


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