Calder Pillay and his friend Petra Andalee had a great adventure in their first book, Chasing Vermeer. They come back for more adventure and mystery in The Wright 3 (and a third time in The Calder Game), and this time are joined by Calder’s old friend Tommy Segovia, who had been gone the year before, missing out on Calder and Petra’s experience.
The sixth-graders live in Chicago’s Hyde Park neighborhood, which is full of cultural treasures, including Frank Lloyd Wright’s the Robie House. As the novel begins, the school year is ending, but the kids’ teacher, Ms. Hussey, has one last project for her class: the Robie House is in disrepair and because of lack of funds, its owner, the University of Chicago, has decided to take it apart and send pieces of it to different museums around the world. Ms. Hussey is scandalized by this “murder” of a precious piece of art and tries to figure out with her class how the house can be saved.
Soon, strange things are happening that seem too odd to be mere coincidences: Petra comes across two copies of The Invisible Man, parts of which seem to fit in with the mysteries that are going on at the house; Tommy finds something on the property; the three hear noises from the house and see dark shapes within, none of which should be there.
The three find out things on their own and reluctantly work together; Tommy is suspicious of Petra and doesn’t like that Calder has made a new friend in his absence; Petra feels slighted by Calder’s old friend, and Calder feels stuck in the middle. But the three find they can do much more together than separately, and the pieces of the puzzle slowly come together.
Blue Balliett crafted a clever formula in Chasing Vermeer, intertwining art and art history, literature, the neat things that can be done with pentominoes, a creative teacher and class, and age-appropriate suspense and danger. She repeats the feat handily in this second book starring the students in Hyde Park, and it is absolutely a delight for readers of any age. She expects the best out of her characters — and out of the readers, allowing them to work out clues for themselves and solve puzzles she drops into the story. It’s like attending a great class for gifted students, packaged into a book. The Wright 3 is fun, brain-stimulating reading, with great information about one of the most talented architects of 20th-century America.