A few weeks ago, we returned to our favorite library after an absence of about six weeks following the birth of the DLM. We are blessed to live in an area which has several small towns close to each other, and each town has its own library. We opted to visit the library closest to our home in the weeks following the DLM’s birth, and we enjoyed its summer reading program tremendously, but we were ready to go back to the larger library. I was pleasantly surprised to learn that this library had added several juvenile audiobooks to its collection, and while my girls are too young to listen to most of the collection, there were several new titles that they burned right through in record time. They LOVED them!
I picked up all the new-to-us titles by Alexander McCall Smith because the girls had already given his Akimbo stories their stamp of approval. (Read my thoughts here.) Of the books the girls have listened to, The Five Lost Aunts of Harriet Bean has been their favorite. I only listened to enough of this story in passing to know that McCall Smith’s subtle sense of humor and talent for word play shine in this story. Since I haven’t listened to or read the whole book, I can’t provide a summary, so here’s a summary, borrowed from Amazon and originally from School Library Journal:
Grade 2-4–An offhand comment from her father sets nine-year-old Harriet Bean on the path of finding the five aunts whom she has never known. This seems like the perfect start of a juicy family mystery but it never quite turns into one. When given the full story of her father’s loss of his five older sisters and a clue to the whereabouts of one of them, Harriet embarks on a hasty journey of collection. Useful coincidences make the women ridiculously easy to locate; it also helps that the final two are mind readers and come seeking her. The real mystery is how the father can possibly be absentminded enough to misplace five sisters. All of them are likable characters with interesting personality quirks and gadgets: strong-woman Veronica uses pedal power to drive her circus trailer from city to city, and twin detectives Thessalonika and Japonica are masters of disguise with convincing costumes. It is these two who give Harriet the chance to solve a mystery in the sequel, which takes place at a racetrack’s stables. Masquerading as a jockey, Harriet is confronted with a villain who uses glue to stick a horse’s feet to the floor so that he won’t run well the next day. It’s contrived stuff such as this that takes most of the charm out of this easy chapter-book series.–Kathleen Meulen, Blakely Elementary School, Bainbridge Island
Hmmm. Not exactly a glowing recommendation, but here it is, straight from my girls. I asked them, “Why do you like Harriet Bean so much?” Their answers:
Lulu: I like when her two aunts went and sprawled on her father, Harold. It’s a mystery.
Louise: It has disguises in it, and I love to dress up in disguises.
There you have it, folks. If you like a mystery in which people sprawl and wear disguises, this one is for you! 🙂
The girls have also enjoyed a couple of Max and Maddy stories by Alexander McCall Smith, also in audiobook format. They have listened to Max & Maddy and the Chocolate Money Mystery (I listened to and enjoyed most of this one) and Max & Maddy and the Bursting Balloons Mystery. I know they listened to the first one two or three times before we returned it to the library, and if that isn’t a glowing recommendation, I don’t know what is.
It’s always interesting to me to read what children choose versus what we choose for them. While I don’t like twaddle, I try to walk the line between steering them toward good literature and allowing them a little intellectual freedom (if reading Barbie books can be called that 😉 ). I don’t feel like I’m sacrificing anything, though, when the girls choose books by Alexander McCall Smith.
For more Kids’ Picks, visit 5 Minutes for Books!