Secret codes. Invisible men. Pentominoes. Fibonacci numbers. Hidden Pictures. Geometry. Red herrings. Murder. The Wright 3, a middle grade mystery for boys and girls by Blue Balliett, has all of these PLUS a plot that captures the reader’s attention and refuses to let go.
When 6th-graders Tommy, Calder, and Petra hear that the Robie House, a 1910 Frank Lloyd Wright house in their Chicago neighborhood, is to be cut into sections and donated to four museums, they band together to try and rescue this unique architectural jewel from destruction.
Following Chasing Vermeer, which featured Petra and Calder, this second book begins with Tommy moving back to Chicago with hopes of rekindling his friendship with Calder. But since Petra and Calder are a team, the first obstacle the three overcome is figuring out if and how they can be a threesome. Using multiple points-of-view, Balliett shows how the Wright 3 (as they name themselves) conquer their initial misunderstandings, pool their talents, solve several mysteries, and eventually save the Robie House.
Balliett does an incredible job of integrating math concepts into this fun, fast-paced book. In addition, each chapter includes intriguing illustrations by Brett Helquist adding another dimension to the story. Each illustration is a mystery: can the reader find the hidden pictures and patterns in each one? As I read it I was faced with a dilemma—should I stay and try to figure out the picture or keep on reading?
The Wright 3 would make a great classroom read as students would vie with one another to figure out the subtle nuances hidden in the black and white drawings. If so, they should listen to the advice of the children’s wise neighbor, “Coincidence reminds me of the repetitions in the Robie House. The more you look, the more you see.” (p. 310)