The Wright 3, by Blue Balliett; Scholastic
Press: New York, 2006; $16.99
The second mystery in a trilogy comprising Chasing Vermeer and The Calder Game, The Wright 3 stars two familiar detectives, twelve-year-olds Calder and Petra, along with a new character, Calder’s old friend, Tommy. It is the end of the school year and the trio, calling themselves the Wright 3, attempt to finish the mission started by their teacher, Ms. Hussey, and their sixth-grade class: saving the Robie House—an actual house in Hyde Park, Chicago, designed by famous architect Frank Lloyd Wright—from being divided up and donated to four different museums. The novel is thrilling, even a bit scary at times. A mason hired to take down the house is “shaken off” the roof. There are unexplained shadows and voices. The Wright 3 almost get killed! Blue Balliet keeps you on the edge of your seat in this captivating mystery packed with action and wit.
I liked The Wright 3 for three main reasons: first, its clever and playful mathematical design based on geometry, pentominoes, and Fibonacci numbers; second, its sharp portrayal of characters and their complex relationships; third, its inspirational plot, as it shows that individuals can make a difference—even if they are kids!
I liked the way The Wright 3 includes math, which the team uses to solve the mystery and even escape death. Calder, as in Chasing Vermeer, has a set of pentominoes, mathematical tools that come in twelve different shapes. He uses them to create the Wright Sandwich Code, which is challenging but fun to figure out. The Wright 3 use the code to communicate when in danger, making an escape plan. Another math-related clue is the Fibonacci numbers, a number sequence in which the next number is the sum of the last two numbers. The Wright 3 uses Fibonacci numbers in a fun, challenging way, ranging from a puzzle in the artwork to the clue that could save the Robie House.
The interactions and problems of the characters in The Wright 3 are similar to the ones my friends and I sometimes experience. For example, Petra and Tommy often seem to compete for the “honor” of being Calder’s best friend, making it hard for them to be close and trusting friends. Mostly, my friends and I get along well. But sometimes we get caught up in uneasy triangles and have to work out some tensions before we can all have fun. As friends are becoming more important in my life, reading about the trio’s friendship issues made me feel relieved that my friends and I are not the only ones experiencing these difficulties.
I can relate to Ms. Hussey’s class’s effort to save the Robie House through my school’s effort to stop overcrowding. Because of the growth of my school’s population, we were in danger of losing the science lab, the art room, the computer lab, and the library. We put posters all over the neighborhood. Parents and students participated in many demonstrations saying “No!” to overcrowding. In the end, the City provided us with additional room in an annex. The power to make a change is in Ms. Hussey’s class and my community, and I find that inspiring.