Chasing Vermeer Extension Activities
- Grades: 3–5, 6–8
About this book
About the Book
When a book of unexplainable occurrences brings Petra Andalee and Calder Pillay together, strange things start to happen: seemingly unrelated events connect, an eccentric old woman seeks their company, and an invaluable Vermeer painting disappears. Before they know it, the two find themselves at the center of an international art scandal, where no one — neighbors, parents, teachers — is spared from suspicion. As Petra and Calder are drawn clue by clue into a mysterious labyrinth, they must draw on their powers of intuition, their problem-solving skills, and their knowledge of Vermeer. Can they decipher a crime that has left even the FBI baffled?
Great readers make connections while they read in at least three important ways.
- They think about connections between the book they are reading and others they have already read (text-to-text connections).
- They think about how the book relates to their own personal life or memories (text-to-self connections).
- They recognize how the book reminds them of something from the larger world, like issues in the news or something that is happening in their own neighborhood (text-to-world connections).
As students read Chasing Vermeer, have each reader create a chart with columns for each of these three connections and keep track of the connections they make while reading.
Have students examine Brett Helquist’s illustrations, then draw a scene from the novel (with or without the main characters). Have students embed clues about the mystery. When students are finished, frame the drawings with black construction paper (or create fancy frames with interesting hand-drawn carvings on brown construction paper) to create a mystery gallery. Hang the artwork in the hallway or use it as a bulletin board display.
Share the art of Johannes Vermeer with the class. Have students choose their favorite paintings by Vermeer and explain in a journal entry why they chose the pieces. They should discuss the following elements of the pieces: the subject, the palette, the light, and the texture. Ask students to answer the following question:
Are there any Vermeer paintings that you feel the thief might have been right about, that don’t fit with the rest of the artist’s work? Explain what makes you think this.
Science and Art
Calder loves the Vermeer painting "The Geographer" and the idea of mapmakers. "Mapmaking was a respected profession, something between a science and an art." (p. 74) Have students create their own maps of their neighborhoods using the science of geography and their own artistic ability. They should try to make maps that are useful to them and their families. Remind them not to forget the important details!
Petra and Calder are interesting characters to follow on their quest for the Vermeer painting. As a class, brainstorm a list of qualities characters in a mystery might possess. Then have students create their own characters and decide the following: What do they look like? What are their favorite hobbies? What are their best subjects in school? What do they struggle with at school, home, and with other people? What are their favorite foods? Have students write a brief scene where one of their characters discovers something has gone wrong.