The Red Blazer Girls: The Mistaken Masterpiece by Michael Beil

Description from Goodreads Link
Sophie, Margaret, Becca, and Leigh Ann are back in an all-new Red Blazer Girls caper. In the third installment, Sophie is nose to fist with her arch-rival, Livvy, all while taking care of movie-star Nate Etan's dog, when Father Julian hires the Blazers to help him authenticate a painting. Mayhem and mystery follows as the girls attempt to uncover the truth. Oh, and, uh, Sophie's friend-who-is-not-a-boyfriend, Raf, is back. . . . Here's another charming and engaging adventure starring these four every-girl sleuths that's perfect for readers 10-up

Sophie is having a great time she's enjoying school, has her best sleuth friends close and has decided to join the swim team. Then BAM! Livvy accidentally breaks Sophie's nose during swim practice. She thinks things are looking up for her when she gets invited to meet THE hottest actor Nate Etan and he asks her to watch his dog for a couple of weeks...for money! Then, the dog turns out to be a menace and eats her shoes and valuable clues in their next problem solving adventure!
The next problem to solve: Father Julian has asked the girls to find out 1. Which signed baseball is the correct one and not a fake. 2. If a painting is really a masterpiece or a fake. Then, a third mystery is thrown in when Sophie begins receiving mysterious packages in the mail. And who is the strange man at the gallery that will not leave the building? And why is Raf acting so weird? And what is Livvy really up to?
The Red Blazer Girls series is so fun! It's got humor, drama and I keep learning new things while solving the mysteries along with the girls. Not only that but I think it's about time I make a trip to New York and visit this famous park this book keeps talking about! (oh, and the coffee treats and pizza sound drool-worthy as well)
My favorite part of this book was how they found out which baseball was the fake, I had my heart in my throat when they discovered the mess! (you gotta read it to find out *wink) "Oh NO he didn't!" was my verbal reaction.

I have really enjoyed reading the Red Blazer Girls books over the past couple of weeks and have the pleasure to ask the author a couple questions of my own.
Author: Michael D Beil (photo taken from Author's page  )
  You have had many professions in your life, from sailmaker to lawyer to teacher. When in your life did you decide it was right to write? 

Sophie’s first words in The Ring of Rocamadour are: “For as far back as I can remember, I have told everyone I know that I am going to be a writer.”  That’s me as much as it is Sophie.  As a kid, I was inspired by the books I read; I was creative, and desperately wanted to be a part of that world.  One of my earliest efforts was a screenplay for an 8mm movie I made with my brother and some friends.  It was called The Seaweed Strangler, and that story was the inspiration for the book that I just finished - my first non-Red Blazer Girls novel. 

Having had several different careers, what was it that inspired you to write for young adults?

It took me a while to find my niche in the publishing world.  During the 90’s, I wrote two and half (unpublished) novels for grownups before my wife suggested that my “voice” - that elusive idea that publishers are always talking about - was a natural fit for the middle grade audience.   I wasn’t so sure at first, but gave it a shot.  I sat down one day and Sophie just started talking.  I wrote the first (of many, many) drafts of The Ring of Rocamadour in about six weeks!

You have been able to capture the humor and drama that young girls experience expertly, why did you decide to write the book with girls as the detectives instead of boys?

That was definitely the result of teaching in a girls’ school.  I teach freshman English, and while my students are a couple of years older than Sophie and her friends, they provide the inspiration.   Leigh Ann’s declaration (in The Vanishing Violin) that  “. . . I’ll bet your first punch is way more memorable than your first kiss” is a paraphrased version of something one of my students said during a play rehearsal.  I thought that was just about the funniest thing I’d ever heard, and I wrote in down in my “ideas” notebook immediately.

 You currently reside in New York but previously are from Ohio and New York is a BIG part of the books. What kind of inspiration do you get from the city that helps you plan the mysteries?  A special music store or museum  or coffee shop that inspired the places you write about?

One of the things I’ve tried to capture in the books is the girls’ nonchalance about living in “the city” (as everyone who lives here refers to it).  People (like me) who move here from other places are in awe of the place, but to kids like my students and the students at St. Veronica’s, it’s just home - they know no other way of life.  (When I first told my friends back in Ohio that my students rode the NYC subway to school every day, they couldn’t believe that parents could be that reckless with their own kids’ lives.)  As for specific places that inspire me, the Church of St. Vincent Ferrer, which is connected to the school, was the model for the church in The Ring of Rocamdour.  Regardless of your religious views, this gothic masterpiece is worth a look if you’re in town; the stained glass windows some of the most amazing ones you’ll see on this side of the Atlantic.  During the summers, when I’m writing full-time, I take the dogs for a walk in Central Park almost every morning.  It’s a wonderful place, and the walk gives me a chance to think about what I wrote the day before, and to plan the next few pages.  

 When you plan your quizzes for your classroom, are the questions as difficult to answer as some of the problems in the books? (For example you had the girls try to find which name doesn't fit into a list of classic character names). 

Not so much on quizzes or tests, but I try to give them some creative research assignments that force them to dig a little deeper than your basic Wikipedia entry.  For example, I do send them on a Dickens “treasure hunt” every year, in which they have to find all kinds of strange details about his life and books.  Full disclosure: it’s more fun for me than it is for them.  But hey, life is unfair like that sometimes.

How many Red Blazer Girls' books do you plan on writing? (Because I for one cannot wait to see what can happen next!) Or do you have any other books you are working on?
I’m working on the fourth RBG book right now, which will publish, I believe, in December 2012.  It’s set during the two weeks before Christmas, so that timing should be great!  But I promise that won’t be the end of “the girls”  I still enjoy their company, and my publisher has expressed interest in continuing, so . . .

As I mentioned above, I also recently finished my first non-RBG book (it’s in copyediting as I write this), which will publish next spring/summer.  It’s a coming of age story about a boy from New York who spends a summer vacation at his uncle’s lake house in . . . you guessed it, Ohio!  While he’s there, he finishes the monster movie his dad started years before, and solves a mystery about him in the process.  My editor and I haven’t quite settled on the title, but I can tell you that the working title was The Seaweed Strangler! 

Thanks for taking time to review The Mistaken Masterpiece and for inviting me to answer a few questions for you.   It’s a great blog, by the way!

Thank you for taking time to answer some questions for me Michael, I really enjoyed these books and look forward to the next part in their story.
Thanks to the publisher, I have one copy of The Red Blazer Girls: The Mistaken Masterpiece  to giveaway to a random lucky commenter on this post.
                            US mailing address only, please
  Remember I must have a way to connect to you or reach you if you win~
                          Giveaway Ends on July 8th!

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