Of Children’s Mysteries and Art Histories

What can a children’s mystery teach us about art history and the importance of not just looking at the world around us, but actually seeing the world around us? You might be quite surprised.

About two months ago Madelyn was working on a report for a book she had read called The Wright 3. This very interesting book is the second in a series by the author Blue Balliett, an Art Historian turned third grade teacher turned novelist. The first book is called Chasing Vermeer and the next book in the series (to be released in May 2008) is The Calder Game.

I try to read some of the books that Madelyn reads just so I can keep up with her, and it gives us something to talk about. I have read books like The Toilet of Doom and Molly Moon’s Amazing Book of Hypnotisim so a book with an interesting title like Chasing Vermeer really got my attention. What could this be about? And why would a fourth grader find a book on Vermeer interesting? I found the book absolutely amazing.

The book is full of stories of friendship and has lots of supernatural elements that add interest, but this book also teaches kids how to see and think. And that is important. Very important. These are the types of books I want my girls reading. Not only are they learning about the lives and work of some very important artists (Jan Vermeer, Frank Lloyd Wright and Alexander Calder) and some interesting pieces of literature (Lo! by Charles Fort in Chasing Vermeer and The Invisible Man by H.G. Wells in The Wright 3) but they are learning how to think critically about the world and, more importantly, how to apply that thinking to problems they face. I sure learned a thing or two about making connections between events and objects. I hope I will pay more attention to the small things around me and look for connections that can increase meaning in my work.

They are also learning very valuable lessons about self esteem and perseverance. These kids find a stolen Vermeer painting and single handedly save Frank Lloyd Wright’s Robie House from destruction. And they are only 12 years old.

These are great books. I highly recommend them. And we (Madelyn and I) can’t wait until May to see what kind of hijinks Petra, Calder and Tommy can get into (and out of) this time. And I am excited to see how Ms. Balliett is going to incorporate the sculpture of Alexander Calder. It should be fun.


1 Comment »

  1. madelyn said

    yeah!!! the books are really cool. you should read them!!


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