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The Five Lost Aunts of Harriet Bean    by Alexander McCall Smith & Laura Rankin order for
Five Lost Aunts of Harriet Bean
by Alexander McCall Smith
Order:  USA  Can
Knopf, 2006 (2006)
Hardcover, Audio
* * *   Reviewed by Hilary Williamson

Alexander McCall Smith joins the ranks of illustrious mainstream authors writing for kids with his new Harriet Bean series - beginning with The Five Lost Aunts of Harriet Bean, and aimed at ages 7 to 10.

Harriet, a remarkably self-possessed nine-year-old, leaps into action after her absentminded inventor father Harold (he specializes in spectacularly useless contraptions like an automatic book whose pages keep turning whether the reader is ready or not) happens to mention his five sisters. Dad tells Harriet a little about his sisters - strong Veronica, bossy Majolica, musical Harmonica, and mind-reading twins, Japonica and Thessalonika. The family lost touch with each other after their parents lost their farm and had to split up the children they could not afford to keep.

Harriet decides that a reunion is in order, and sets about tracking down her five lost aunts. When her detecting yields a first clue, that Veronica works in a circus, Harriet tracks down the strong lady at Circus Romano (Veronica's so strong in fact that she powers her own trailer, which needs no engine). Harriet stays with Veronica and together they find Harmonica, who's a voice throwing opera understudy. An ad for bossy teachers leads them to Majolica, after which it's a no brainer to find the twins. The latter run a detective agency, where they use delightful devices like special magnifying glasses that show fingerprints or translate French into English.

Harriet gets her reunion and a family portrait (after a few hiccups) is finally completed. The story, enhanced by Laura Rankin's funny black and white illustrations, offers the kind of whimsical entertainment to be expected from Alexander McCall Smith.

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