|Book Review: The Calder Game|
THE CALDER GAME|
by Blue Balliett
Published by Scholastic Press, New York, 2008
Reviewed by Kate Jones
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 (Minotaur) in the town square. Both the boy (who was named after the artist) and the sculpture disappear on the same night!
Petra and Tommy fly to England to help Calder's father find him. This mystery has more twists and turns than a Calder mobile in high wind. Who is the mysterious girl with the camera? Who is the injured man found in the woods? Is there a secret room behind the waterfalls? What is the meaning of the puzzling graffiti left in place of the missing sculpture? Is there an even more twisted game afoot?
Blue Balliett captures the personalities and minds of each character with deft strokes and draws the atmosphere for each scene with masterful nuances. It feels authentic because the author actually visited all the places she describes the 1000-year-old village, the graveyards and mazes, the palaces and gardens, the waterfalls and bridges. She has a fine ear for the subtleties of accents and characters' turns of phrase. This is a book to savor.
In this volume, Blue Balliett focuses on the art of Alexander Calder, whose mobiles (hanging) and stabiles (floor-based) revolutionized modern art and gave it a fourth dimension, motion through time. The ever-changing perspective that never looks the same twice leads us to reflect on change in general...now you see it, now you don't...and how each experience changes us as well, moment by moment.
At one point in the story, the three young friends get separated, each trying to find the next clue and keeping up their courage in scary situations. Their ordeals lead them to a stronger bond between them, a greater appreciation of each other's differences. For this reader it was good to have them be rid of their previous animosities.
Back home in Chicago, the kids also see a welcome change in their classroom, where their previously restrictive teacher has also had a happy transformation through the inspiring power of Alexander Calder's art. Blue Balliett's enlightened teaching philosophy shines through the pages here.
Thoughtful readers will especially enjoy the intricate mix and balance between art lore, teaching inspirations, literature and philosophy, art as puzzle, puzzles as ideas, ideas as art. Rather like a mind mobile, wouldn't you say?
There is a secondary puzzle to decode, hidden in Brett Helquist's delightful illustrations, using Alexander Calder icons as an alphabet. Have fun!
We should mention that Kadon and its products have no connection whatsoever with the books and their publisher, nor with Warner Bros. and their intended film of Chasing Vermeer. We're just happy to acknowledge the good work others do in presenting the concept of pentominoes so affectionately and intelligently in the popular media.
For her extraordinary contributions to popularizing pentominoes, Kadon was pleased to present to Blue Balliett the Gamepuzzles Annual Pentomino Excellence award for 2006.
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