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Harriet the Spy by Louise Fitzhugh

Harriet the Spy (1964)

by Louise Fitzhugh

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Harriet loves to write down everything in her notebook. Some of it is nice. Some of it is not-so-nice.

And then Harriet loses her notebook.

And then Harriet loses all her friends.

You don’t often find a story with the emotional resonance of Harriet the Spy. ( )
  debnance | Jul 25, 2015 |
Such an interesting character! I can understand why it is so popular. ( )
  joeydag | Jul 23, 2015 |
The only thing I remembered from my childhood reading of this book was "cake and milk!" It is dated in that old money New York way - Harriet has a "nurse" (nanny), "Ole Golly," and the family has a cook, and Harriet doesn't see her parents very often, and she attends a small private school. She also has the freedom to wander about the neighborhood (spying on people, naturally), more so than most sixth-graders have today (despite the fact that it is actually safer now than it was in the 1960s).

Two major changes occur in Harriet's life during the course of the book: first, Ole Golly leaves, and second, Harriet's notebook is discovered and read by her classmates, who turn against her (forming a Spy Catcher Club). Even her best friends Sport and Janie won't speak to her. Harriet's parents, at last realizing something is wrong, send her to a psychiatrist, and speak to the school principal; they also arrange for Ole Golly to send Harriet a letter. Harriet doesn't change her ways entirely - she can't give up her notebook - but she does apologize and print a retraction in the school paper. The ending is rather abrupt.


She never minded admitting she didn't know something. So what, she thought; I could always learn. (50)

Life is a great mystery. Is everybody a different person when they are with somebody else? (Harriet's notebook, 97)

Remember that writing is to put love in the world, not to use against your friends. But to yourself you must always tell the truth. (Ole Golly's letter to Harriet, 278) ( )
  JennyArch | Mar 5, 2015 |
Harriet M. Welsch is going to be a writer some day. For now, she is observing everything she can, from her family to her classmates to the neighbors she observes on her "spy route." She writes candidly (and often cruelly) in her notebook, but when that notebook is discovered and read by her classmates, Harriet is headed for trouble!

I haven't reread this book in years, and what struck me this time is how well Fitzhugh wrote about the experience of childhood. Harriet is kind of a brat, and I wouldn't want to be around her in real life, but she manages to be sympathetic in the context of the story. This childhood classic is one I highly recommend for both children and adults. ( )
  foggidawn | Oct 2, 2014 |
This was a fun read. I was shocked by the straight-forward entries in Harriet's notebooks, and her innocence. I haven't read this book as child, and I think if I have, I wouldn't see those entries as shocking, but rather honest and funny. This book has good lessons, and bad ones. The good was the importance of friendship, and the lessons Ole Golly has taught Harriet, which are both street-smart and book-smart. The bad was the mean notebook entries and the message that Harriet gets what Harriet wants, even when demonstrating bad behavior. Nonetheless, it was a fun read. ( )
  Emanbella | Aug 27, 2014 |
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Original publication date
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Important events
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First words
Harriet was trying to explain to Sport how to play town.
[Harriet] hated math. She hated math with every bone in her body. She spent so much time hating it that she never had time to do it.
Last words
(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
Disambiguation notice
This is the book, not the movie.
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Wikipedia in English (1)

Book description
Harrriet M Welsch is a spy. She's staked out a spy route, and she writes down everything about everyone she sees, including her classmates and even her best friends. From Harriet's notebooks: I bet the lady with the crosks-eye looks in the mirror and feels just terrible. Pinky Whitehead will never change, does his mother hate him? If I had him, I'd hate him. If Marion Hawthorne doesn't watch out she's going to grow up into a lady Hitler. Then Harriet loses track of her notebook, and it ends up in the wrong hands. Before Harriet can stop them, her friends have read the always truthful, sometimes awful things she's written about each of them. Will Harriet find a way to put her life and her friendships back together? (0-440-41679-5)
Haiku summary

Amazon.com Amazon.com Review (ISBN 0440416795, Paperback)

Ages 8-12. Thirty-two years before it was made into a movie, Harriet the Spy was a groundbreaking book: its unflinchingly honest portrayal of childhood problems and emotions changed children's literature forever. Happily, it has neither dated nor become obsolete and remains one of the best children's novels ever written. The fascinating story is about an intensely curious and intelligent girl, who literally spies on people and writes about them in her secret notebook, trying to make sense of life's absurdities. When her classmates find her notebook and read her painfully blunt comments about them, Harriet finds herself a lonely outcast. Fitzhugh's writing is astonishingly vivid, real and engaging, and Harriet, by no means a typical, loveable heroine, is one of literature's most unforgettable characters. School Library Journal wrote, "a tour de force... bursts with life." The Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books called it "a very, very funny story." And The Chicago Tribune raved, "brilliantly written... a superb portrait of an extraordinary child."

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:24:35 -0400)

(see all 7 descriptions)

Eleven-year-old Harriet keeps notes on her classmates and neighbors in a secret notebook, but when some of the students read the notebook, they seek revenge.

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