The Calder Game. By Blue Balliett. Illustrated by Brett Helquist. Scholastic. $17.99.
Blue Balliett’s third art-focused detective caper for preteens and young teenagers is the most harrowing yet – and the most focused on trying to give her three young protagonists some individual personality. Balliett’s first two novels, Chasing Vermeer and The Wright 3, were deservedly popular for their offbeat approach of using art and architecture as driving forces, thus creating mysteries whose solutions actually got young readers thinking about (and involved in) the artistic world. But the three 12-year-old protagonists were never fully formed and differentiated characters – and in The Calder Game, Balliett seems aware of this fact and determined to change it. At one point in the book, a character sums up all readers have needed to know about the three central characters: “Calder the Math Whiz, Tommy the Finder,
The secrets are far more mundane in the re-release of the first two Sweet Valley High books, in which the characters are more one-dimensional than Calder, Tommy and