The Five Lost Aunts of Harriet Bean

Alexander McCall Smith, Author, Laura Rankin, Illustrator , illus. by Laura Rankin. Bloomsbury $9.95 (117p) ISBN 978-1-58234-975-6

This paper-over-board caper, the first in a series by adult mystery writer Smith, combines humor and intrigue as it introduces a plucky aspiring sleuth. Nine-year-old Harriet Bean learns that her absent-minded father, an inventor of "useless" devices, has five sisters. She is astonished at the news—and at the fact that her father has lost track of them ("But what happened?... You can't have lost my aunts just like that," says she). Harriet's father reveals that his farming family, stricken by poverty, had to split up the siblings as children. He then shows Harriet an unfinished painting of him and his sisters as youngsters, explaining that his father couldn't afford to pay the artist to complete it. Harriet decides to track down her aunts so that the portrait ("with blanks where the heads should be") can be completed. Harriet's search leads to some amusingly madcap moments: Aunt Veronica, who performs as a strong woman in a circus, saves Harriet's dad from an elephant's stranglehold. And when they then track down Aunt Harmonica, an opera singer and ventriloquist, Veronica holds her sister upside-down so that she can sing after she begins choking on a lozenge just as the curtain rises. The remaining aunts possess a bit less pizzazz. Yet Smith adds ample comic twists to keep kids entertained, and Rankin's (The Handmade Alphabet ) playful pictures (especially an artist's resourceful solution to the portrait problem) will likely bring readers back for Harriet Bean and the League of Cheats (1-58234-976-2; also May). Ages 7-9. (May)

Reviewed on: 05/22/2006
Release date: 05/01/2006
Show other formats
Hardcover - 112 pages - 978-0-7451-8927-7
Paperback - 208 pages - 978-986-241-167-4
Hardcover - 117 pages - 978-0-676-97776-9
Paperback - 117 pages - 978-1-59990-053-7
Paperback - 144 pages - 978-0-7475-8047-8
Stay ahead with
Tip Sheet!
Free newsletter: the hottest new books, features and more
Only $18.95/month for Digital Access
or $20.95 for Print+Digital Access!
Only $18.95/month for Digital Access
or $20.95 for Print+Digital Access!
Email Address


Log In Lost Password

PW has integrated its print and digital subscriptions, offering exciting new benefits to subscribers, who are now entitled to both the print edition and the digital editions of PW (online or via our app). For instructions on how to set up your accout for digital access, click here. For more information, click here.

The part of the site you are trying to access is now available to subscribers only. Subscribers: to set up your digital subscription with the new system (if you have not done so already), click here. To subscribe, click here.

Email with questions.

Not Registered? Click here.