By Alexander McCall Smith

Copyright Date: 2007 (new teacher’s edition)

Published by: Bloomsbury U.S.A. Children’s Books

Lexile Reading Level: 710

Grade Level Recommendation: 3rd -4th Grade

Common Core State Standard:

Know and apply grade-level phonics and word analysis skills in decoding words.
Identify and know the meaning of the most common prefixes and derivational suffixes.
Decode words with common Latin suffixes.
Decode multisyllable words.
Read grade-appropriate irregularly spelled words.


Suggested Delivery: Independent reading

Key Vocabulary: 

  • nightingale: small migratory birds of the thrush family
  • astounded: to overwhelm with amazement; astonish greatly; shock with wonder or surprise
  • bated breath: waiting for something to happen
  • peculiar: strange, unusual, odd, uncommon
  • vague: not clear or explicitly stated or expressed
  • mysterious: of obscure nature, implying or suggesting mystery

Reading Strategies (From the Teacher’s Guide in the back of the book):

  • Before:
    • On a piece of paper, list as many of your aunts and uncles as you can.
    • Do they have children too? Can you list them?
    • Are there any people in your family you’ve never met? How can this happen?
    • How would you feel if you discovered that you had five missing aunts? Would you want to find them? How would you start to locate them?
  • During:  While the students are reading, have them fill out a character chart.  This could include the character’s names, the description/ facts about them and their career.
  • After:
    • Why hasn’t Harriet known about her aunts? What happened when Herold was younger?
    • Describe the painted made of the five aunts and their brother. Why did their parents have it made? What happened?
    • Aunt Veronica says, “There are some things that can’t be bought. These things are by far the most valuable.” What does this mean? Do you agree with her?
    • The painter makes a mistake on the portrait. What is it? How does he fix it?
    • Do  you think the aunts and their brother will keep their promise to see each other weekly? Why or why not?
    • Which aunt would be your favorite? Why? What special abilities do members of your family have? How would you try to find someone now?

Electronic Resources:

Harriet Bean Series:

  1. The Five Lost Aunts of Harriet Bean
  2. Harriet Bean and the League of Cheats
  3. The Cowgirl Aunt of Harriet Bean



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