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The Wright 3

Review

The Wright 3

written by Blue Balliett, illustrated by Brett Helquist

In CHASING VERMEER, which was often described as THE DA VINCI CODE for kids, two children from the University of Chicago Lab School helped solve an art theft. In THE WRIGHT 3, those kids --- Petra and Calder --- have returned and are joined by Calder's old friend Tommy, who was living in New York City during the previous novel's action.

Almost as soon as Tommy arrives back in Chicago's Hyde Park neighborhood to finish up the school year, a new art mystery arises literally in his backyard. The Robie House, Frank Lloyd Wright's architectural achievement that has its own troubled history, is falling into disrepair, and the University of Chicago has decided to cut up the historic home into four pieces, which will be displayed in the collections of four international museums.

The children's dynamic teacher, Ms. Hussey, calls the destruction of the home a "murder," and urges the children to research the history of the building and come up with their own creative ways to save the work of art. Most of the class is content just to stage a protest on one of the last days of school, but Calder, Petra and Tommy (who are having a hard time getting along) are determined to go further.

In a story full of plot twists, coincidences, and more than a hint of the supernatural, the three art sleuths must grapple with clues as diverse as Alfred Hitchcock's Rear Window, H. G. Wells's THE INVISIBLE MAN, and Wright's own life story. With the help of Calder's three-dimensional pentominoes, a secret code, and more than a little luck, can the three kids learn to work together as the "Wright 3" to solve the mystery and save the house?

Like CHASING VERMEER, THE WRIGHT 3 is rich not only in its very specific and accurate Chicago setting but also in its cultural and artistic depth. Tommy, Calder and Petra are smart youngsters with unique talents --- they're not afraid to learn or use their brains to solve problems. Although at times the connections the children make seem strained, the overall plot is imaginative and suspenseful, and the ending is satisfactory for everyone.

THE WRIGHT 3 may just get kids interested in solving problems, constructing codes, and learning about art and architecture, all thanks to a genuinely entertaining mystery novel.

Reviewed by Norah Piehl on June 1, 2007

The Wright 3
written by Blue Balliett, illustrated by Brett Helquist

  • Publication Date: June 1, 2007
  • Paperback: 352 pages
  • Publisher: Scholastic Paperbacks
  • ISBN-10: 0439693683
  • ISBN-13: 9780439693684