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Blue Balliett

I was born in New York City and grew up playing in Central Park, getting my share of scraped knees, and riding many public buses and subways. By the time I was a teenager, I sometimes stopped at the Metropolitan Museum of Art or the Frick Museum after school, just to wander and look and think. The Met has five Vermeer paintings and the Frick three, so Vermeer and I have been friends for many years.

After studying art history in college, I moved to Nantucket Island, in Massachusetts, in order to write. I surprised myself by writing two books of ghost stories, stories collected by interviewing people. My husband and I met and were married on Nantucket, lived there year-round for another 10 years, and had our two children there.

When our kids started school, we moved to Chicago. I began teaching 3rd grade at the University of Chicago Laboratory Schools. One year my class and I decided to figure out what art was about. We asked many questions, visited many museums in the city, and set off a number of alarms — by mistake, of course.

In writing Chasing Vermeer, I wanted to explore the ways kids perceive connections between supposedly unrelated events and situations, connections that grown-ups often miss. Given the opportunity, kids can ask questions that help them to think their way through tough problems that adults haven’t been able to figure out — problems like the theft of a Vermeer painting!

In The Wright 3, I play with questions about architecture as art, the preservation of old buildings, and Frank Lloyd Wright’s legacy. I wanted to continue exploring controversial ideas within the three-dimensional art world. We need kids to develop into powerful, out-of-the-box thinkers, now more than ever. I believe in making trouble — of the right kind.

My third book, The Calder Game, takes place in a small community in England, a 1,000-year-old town that I visited while on a book tour. I had a wonderful time writing this book. I had to do lots of eavesdropping, poking around, tiptoeing through graveyards, and climbing walls, and then there was all the Cadbury chocolate I had to eat. Alexander Calder's work is art for any age. I first saw his sculpture when I was 9 years old, in a show at the Guggenheim Museum in New York. It was art but it was magic, and it left me hungry for more. This, I'm sure, was the beginning of my belief that art is about adventure.


Blue Balliett grew up in New York City and attended Brown University. She and her family now live in Chicago, within walking distance of Frank Lloyd Wright's Robie House. Balliett's books have now appeared in 34 languages. Warner Bros. Pictures has acquired the film rights to Chasing Vermeer.