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The Wright 3

 The Wright 3. Blue Balliett ; Scholastic Press, 2006

Grade Level: 6-8

ISBN & Cost: 0-439-693675, $16.99

the wright 3

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Preferred wording: “Used by permission of the publisher.”

Synopsis: Sixth-grade sleuths Petra and Calder, along with friend Tommy, work to save Frank Lloyd Wright’s architectural treasure the Robie House from destruction and investigate the mysterious circumstances surrounding the house.

General Review:

 A follow-up to the art mystery Chasing Vermeer, The Wright 3 features Petra, Calder and Tommy at the end of their sixth-grade year. Their teacher, Ms. Hussey, is horrified to learn that because of financial constraints, the University of Chicago is planning to dismantle the Robie House, a marvel of prairie style architecture designed by Frank Lloyd Wright, and display the parts in separate museums. When Ms. Hussey enlists the children’s help in an effort to save the Chicago landmark, the main characters discover mysterious happenings at the house and a coded message left by Wright himself. Like Chasing Vermeer, this book also includes interlocking coincidences, a secret code, and some surprises hidden in Brett Helquist’s wonderful illustrations.

Themes: Robie House (Chicago, ILL); Wright, Frank Lloyd, 1867-1959; Schools; Chicago (ILL); Mystery and detective stories

 Author information: Author & Illustrator Index. Scroll down and click on Blue Balliett.

Blue Balliett . Contemporary Authors Online, Thomson Gale, 2005. (available online through free Kan-Ed access to Literature Resource Center)

Blue’s Clues: On the Case with the Wright 3 by Shannon Maughan, Publishers Weekly, 3/23/2006


Discussion Questions: (Standard 3, Benchmark 3)

  1. Ms. Hussey asks her students: is a building a piece of art? What do you think?
  2. Do you think dismantling the Robie House is a crime, or do you think it would be OK to put its pieces in different museums? Explain your answer.
  3. Discuss the role of patterns and coincidences in the story. How do they add to the plot of the story?
  4. Decode the message on page 237.
  5. Discuss the “About the Artwork: a Challenge to the Read” page that appears in the book before chapter 1. What can you find in Helquist’s illustrations?





  1. Ms. Hussey taught her students to stand up for what they believe in and take action. Think of an issue you feel strongly about (for example, reducing the amount of trash on school grounds or in the local park). Now come up with an action plan—what will you do to make a difference? Organize kids to pick up trash? Talk to kids at school? Write a letter to the editor of the local newspaper? (Standard 3, Benchmark 3; Standard 4, Benchmarks 1 & 2)
  2. Use art supplies or Google SketchUp (free download available at ) to design your perfect house. Explain the reasons behind your design and why you would want to live there. “Design a House” lesson plan available at:,30 . (Standard 4, Benchmark 2; Standard 5, Benchmark 3)
  3. Design your own stained glass window and create it using black construction paper, colored tissue paper and glue. Directions available at: . (Standard 4, Benchmark 2; Standard 5, Benchmark 3)
  4. Write a persuasive letter from Petra, Calder and Tommy to the University of Chicago explaining why the Robie House is an important piece of architecture and should not be torn apart. (Standard 3, Benchmark 4; Standard 9, Benchmark 1)
  5. Frank Lloyd Wright was known for prairie style architecture. Learn more about Wright, or research other types of architecture or architects and share what you learn with your class. (Standard 2, Benchmarks 1 & 4; Standard 9, Benchmark 1)

SIRS periodical database and World Book Online (free to all schools and libraries) have some excellent articles, including:

    • FRANK LLOYD WRIGHT: BUILDINGS FOR PEOPLE by Suzanne Bilyeau, SCHOLASTIC ART March 1994, pp. 2-7. (available through SIRS – excellent discussion of Wright’s contributions to architecture)
    • Fallingwater by Brooke Malfatto, HIGHLIGHTS FOR CHILDREN
      (Vol. 60, No. 5) May 2005, pp. 22-23. (SIRS)

Web resources:

  1. Research historic buildings in your own community. Take digital photos and create a “virtual tour” that explains the history of the building. PowerPoint or PhotoStory (free download available at ) are great software tools that allow you to create narrated slide shows. (Standard 1, Benchmarks 3 & 5; Standard 3, Benchmark 4; Standard 9, Benchmark 1)


Similar Books for Further Reading

  • Chasing Vermeer by Blue Balliett (past WAW nominee)
  • From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler by E.L. Konigsburg (winner of both the Newbery Medal and William Allen White Award)
  • The Westing Game by Ellen Raskin (Newbery Medal, past WAW nominee)
  • The Eleventh Hour by Graeme Base (a picture book mystery with codes and clues hidden in the illustrations)

Short mysteries to be solved:
Dr. Quicksolve Mystery books by Jim Sukach

MysteryNet’s Kids Mysteries --