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Harriet M Welsch is determined to grow up and be a famous author In the meantime she practices by following a regular spy route each day and writing down everything she sees in her secret notebook including her most private and honest thoughts about her friends and classmates Then one morning Harriet leaves her spy notebook lying around and her classmates find it They're not at all happy about the nasty things Harriet has said about them Now the other sixth graders are stealing her tomato sandwiches forming a spy catcher club and writing notes of their own all about Harriet


10 thoughts on “Harriet the Spy

  1. says:

    Schadenfreude That's what this book is about and it's all Harriet thinks about the misfortune of others and how she can find joy in it While that can have its place like in The Hunger Games it is just disturbing where this book is concernedThis is one of those rare times where twenty years later I reread a book from childhood that I adored and my opinion of it completely changes as an adult I kept my original copy from childhood but now I'm not sure I will keep it still because I can't imagine ever reading this again It was painful I did not enjoy it It was not charming I thought it was funny for maybe the first couple chapters but it quickly becomes causticHarriet wants to be a writer Fair enough But there are two very disturbing revelations associated with this1 Harriet somehow gets the idea that the best way to practice being a writer is not to like practice writing short stories and use her imagination Instead she takes write what you know to a whole new level keeping a notebook where she spies on everyone in the neighborhood and then documents every cruel thought she has ever had about them including her best friends then somehow justifies this as a way to learn to write better and descriptively2 Harriest does not want to be a writer to improve the world become famous or inspire people Allow me as I quote WHEN I GROW UP I'M GOING TO FIND OUT EVERYTHING ABOUT EVERYBODY AND PUT IT ALL IN A BOOK THE BOOK IS GOING TO BE CALLED SECRETS BY HARRIET M WELSCH I WILL ALSO HAVE PHOTOGRAPHS IN IT AND MAYBE SOME MEDICAL CHARTS IF I CAN GET THEM I just WHAT??Still I kept giving the book the benefit of the doubt For one thing it is intriguing because we all think things about other people although I quickly grew tired of that Most importantly though there was still a chance that Harriet might learn some good lessons from all thisNopeHarriet's parents are so pleased that Ole Golly can handle Harriet so well but they seem blind to the fact that none of them the parents or Ole Golly seemed to have instilled any values a sense of privacy and boundariesparameters or common decency in Harriet Harriet is petultant selfish disrespectful shallow beyond nosy self involved and just plain mean She has no redeeming qualities None She has no social skills cannot relate to her peers is stunted psychologically has a truly alarming lack of empathy for other people and spends her days involving herself in everyone else's business and truly and wholeheartedly thinks it's her business to know these things about others whereas how DARE they think to look in her SOOPER SEKRIT notebookHarriet is eleven but she talks and spends her days like a middle aged sociopath relishing the choice of his next victim I kept waiting for her to learn a lesson to gain some insight to understand how her actions hurt other people to understand what she was doing was not just wrong but also sick nothing She doesn't learn anything not even when she goes to a psychologist not even when she gets caught breaking and entering not even when all her friends find her notebook and shut her out not even when the adults closest to her realize what she's been doing not even when the teachers see what this does to her classmatesI am really not sure what Fitzhugh was trying to accomplish with this book Harriet learned no lessons Her friends magically forgive her after her superficial apology which involved spying and telling secrets in the school newspaper whereas were I her friend I would never be able to trust her again She doesn't get into any actual trouble for what she does If I had children I'm not even sure I would allow them to read this


  2. says:

    The other day my girlfriend said something about her love of tomato and mayonnaise sandwiches to which I naturally replied Yeah? Do you like to roll around and pretend you're an onion too?And she had no idea what I meantHow do you not know Harriet the Spy? She has to rank competitively with the greatest literary characters of all time so spunky so misunderstood so maligned by her peers toward the end There was even some kind of high budget film that got made a few years ago Frankly it makes me sad to imagine a life without Harriet the Spyratfink


  3. says:

    If you've ever spent any time wondering how fictional characters like Olive Kitteridge Eleanor Oliphant or Don Tillman got to be who they are you need look no further than Harriet the SpyIt's all here in this bookHarriet is a lot like these adult characters but she's a child an 11 year old girl And we learn quickly she never suffered abuse or neglect Neither parent committed suicide She wasn't sexually molested by a neighbor eitherShe's just freaking quirkyIs she somewhere “on the spectrum?” Does she have a “personality disorder?” Is she a “sociopath?”It's hard to say Or I can't sayBut damn it she is fascinatingMy 11 year old and I couldn't even read this book without taking breaks We literally had moments where we had to shut the book put it down on the coffee table and stare at one another The fragments of our bewilderment went a little like thisShe broke into the neighbor's house??? She spied at them through a peek hole??She doesn't understand that they are talking about her?There was one point in the story that was so incredible not unbelievable for Harriet's character but incredible my daughter who is NOT allowed to use profanity uttered “What the hell?” I gave her a free pass in that moment because honestly I was thinking the same thingI have never encountered a book like this before Or I certainly haven't encountered a book like this that was written for the middle grades I don't even know if the author Louise Fitzhugh was a creative mastermind or a quirky lady herself whose mind just worked this wayThis is one of those books that no writer should ignore Something happened here that was equal parts brilliant hilarious and disturbingThis bizarre book written in 1964 is from a time capsule of no particular era Writing like this can punch you square in the face at any time


  4. says:

    I loved this book as a kid I may just have to read it againAnd read it again I did I grew up in Harriet's neighborhood almost and the descriptions of the New York of my childhood almost broke my heartHarriet is a cranky adolescent living in a cushy New York world that was already changing when I was young and going to The Gregory School which was really The Chapin School located on East End Avenue across the street from Carl Schurz ParkThe typical brownstones single family 3 and 4 storey houses have mostly disappeared on the East Side of New York They were replaced by enormous glass apartment towers and modern readers of Harriet the Spy will find it difficult to understand how Harriet was able to roam around and peer into windows and skylights with such ease At the time the story was written the mid 1960s much of the area had already been razed leaving rows of brownstones running down one side of the city blocks and open lots behind exposing private gardens and leaving fire escapes accessible to a young spy Most of the brownstones that remain are no longer single family dwellings but have been turned into apartmentsHarriet lives with her parents who almost never appear in the story Mother is always lunching or playing bridge and Father is at work; in the evenings they are always at parties Harriet is left to her own devices lovingly guided by the world's best nanny Ole Golly I never really liked Mary Poppins Harriet's inquiring mind leads her to spy on everyone and to write her impressions in her notebook Her impressions are brutally honest too honest but Harriet is following the tradition of New York families of that time women folk are catty and brutal even at the age of 12 but not in publicI think Harriet the Spy iswas so successful because it was the antithesis to stories like The Bobbsey Twins which my mother would not allow in the house Harriet was a modern girl in the making She wanted a career she didn't want to play bridge and she didn't want to be a member of exclusive social clubs She was like my mother except for the bridge playing part; my mother adored bridge and taught me to play at an early ageIt's a strange book and Harriet is a strange girl not very likable really but what girl is likable at that age? Harriet at least does not want to change herself just to be likable nor will she give up on her friends just because they are Not Our KindI'm so glad I re read this I include this clip from the film The World of Henry Orient A Novel for local color The film came out the same year as Harriet 1964httpwwwyoutubecomwatch?vxVUPxR p 27Harriet’s school was called The Gregory School having been founded by a Miss Eleanore Gregory around the turn of the century It was on East End Avenue a few blocks from Harriet’s house and across the street from Carl Schurz Park


  5. says:

    Okay who’s ready for another dose of nostalgia? I remember picking up this book before a summer vacation The trailer had premiered earlier and I was dying to know what happened before I saw the movie All the readers who truly feel me throw your hands up at me My plan was to read a chapter a day but I was also reading Ralph S Mouse at the same time nostalgia kicking in yet? Anyway somehow my older brother got ahold of it and finished it before me while I was reading the other book during this vacation And he spoiled it Yeah guys he was mad because he got scammed because he bought a bootleg version of Dangerous Minds off the street we were visiting family in New York at the time so he took his frustration out that way as typical older brothers in the 90’s did for some reason If you don’t understand this I’m sure Clarissa would be than happy to explain everything about sibling dynamics to youMoving forward I didn’t finish the book at the time because I was mad that it was spoiled for me no worries I did pick it up again a while later But I did see the movie and it was spectacular I was obsessed with Harriet’s use of everyday things and how she turned them into spy gadgets I wanted a belt like hers and I think Wild Planet capitalized on it with their own line of spy toysI even remember prizes at our elementary school fundraiser being these collapsible binoculars and sunglasses with mirrors on the side of them so you could see behind you These cheapo toys made all of us kids feel like real secret agents on the playgroundThen the movie came out on VHS and the clamshell packaging was orange You guys that was crazy at the time Even the tape was orange instead of the pedestrian black and that was so wild And it came with invisible ink pensA big component of the story was that Harriet was told by her nanny Golly that if she wanted to be a writer that she needed to practice writing everyday and to start using her powers of inspection to really see people To look beneath the obviousness of their actions and see the underlying causes And Harriet gets in trouble for her acerbic and cutting observations when her private journal is stolen and all the kids in her class find out what she really sees when she looks at them She becomes a pariah for this and even her closest friends give in to the pressure of alienating her because they felt betrayed by her again PRIVATE thoughts Feeling isolated and that her personal property was violated she lashes out at everyone using her newfound detective paradigm to see everyone’s weaknesses view spoiler This was kind of mind blowing as a kid That you could shut people down with just a few simple comments; today we call that “slaying” hide spoiler


  6. says:

    Book 33100 of 2015455


  7. says:

    I loved this book Read it first in the fifth grade then read it at least twice a year after that until it fell out of my book bag in the gym locker room in the seventh grade Spent the rest of that term known as Harriet or Fuckin' Girly Fag I guess I preferred Harriet


  8. says:

    I re read Harriet the Spy last week and found myself noticing for the first time how deeply subversive and honest it is Even by contemporary standards it's a bracing read hard to imagine what reading this book must have been like when it was first published in 1964 Something that moved me this time around was how defiantly Harriet and Janie resist the half hearted efforts of their parents to make them behave with conventional femininity and how quickly their parents give up that scheme as represented by the specter of DANCE SCHOOL As little as their parents understand Harriet and Janie they also seem to have no real interest in changing or controlling them


  9. says:

    This isn’t a great children’s book This is a great book whose protagonist happens to be very youngThis is a book that manages to be shocking in spite of the absence of sex drugs and violence Harriet isn’t forced to kick arse in a fight to the death or struggle to feed her family On the contrary the only shocking thing about her personal circumstances is how privileged she is Her family employs a housemaid a cook and a “nurse” improbably named Ole Golly It can be hard for a modern reader of any age to understand what exactly that last job entails Harriet isn’t sick or sickly so Ole Golly isn’t that kind of nurse Ole Golly isn’t a babysitter exactly either She does stay with Harriet when her parents go to parties at night which is frequently; but she doesn’t supervise Harriet very closely or even walk her to school She’s a bit like a governess but she doesn’t teach lessonsActually she does She just isn’t paid to And although Harriet leads a pampered existence Ole Golly believes she can handle tough truths “Tears won’t bring me back” she says sternly when she has to leave Harriet for good “Remember that Tears never bring anything back Life is a struggle and a good spy gets in there and fights Remember that No nonsense” And later in a letter If you’re missing me I want you to know I’m not missing you Gone is gone I never miss anything or anyone because it all becomes a lovely memory I guard my memories and love them but I don’t get in them and lie down You can even make stories from yours but remember they don’t come back Just think how awful it would be if they did You don’t need me now You’re eleven years old which is old enough to get busy at growing up to be the person you want to beDon’t sit around missing me when I’m gone Life is tough and eleven years old is plenty old enough to get out there and start fighting for what you needTell that to a generation who grew up on the creepy stalker vision of parental care presented in Love You ForeverThis may not sound too startling to people who regularly devour dystopian and gritty urban YA fiction Yes Katniss has to fight actual life or death battles But the whole point of her story is that she shouldn’t have to Harriet is taught early on that life is a fight and even members of the well fed elite have to jump into the ringGranted Harriet’s battles are brought on by her own worst qualities She has a lot of them She is not a winning adorable child She’s blunt and obnoxious and thinks mean things even about the people she cares about And she doesn’t care about many She alienates everyone she knows with her writing And then she wins them back – with her writingThis book has aged well in every sense It’s fun for an adult to read or reread because the writing is ridiculously enviably good It’s a book to give to children for the same reason It’s also a terrific cautionary tale for very modern reasonsAs Meg Cabot author of the Princess Diaries series points out in her short appreciative essay Louise Fitzhugh could not have known how prescient Harriet the Spy was Fifty years after its publication some young girls and boys and even old ones too are still recording their innermost thoughts and feelings only now they’re doing it far too publicly on the Internet causing themselves untold amounts of troubleIf only they listened to Ole GollyCabot’s essay is included along with several others all by prominent writers Gregory Maguire’s even includes an excerpt from an early diary he kept after being inspired by Harriet’s example Tonight when we were going to swim Annie said “Aaahh There’s a spider in my goggles”Joe said “Drown it Throw it in the lake”Annie said “No don’t drown it”I said “Annie since when have you cared about the welfare of a measly spider?”She said “It’s not that I just don’t want any drowned spiders in any lake that I intend to swim in”Read this book if you haven’t already Reread it if it’s been awhile And get this anniversary edition if you don’t already have your own copy of Harriet It’s a lot of fun to see how other authors were affected by the abrasive but compelling Harriet M Welsch


  10. says:

    I genuinely don't like giving a book a bad review but if it weren't that I have an obsessive need to finish a book once I start it I would have put this one down the first time Harriet started screaming like a toddler A large part of the reason I was so put off by this book is that I had set my expectations that I was reading a beloved and light hearted childhood book about a girl who learns some life lessons after she is caught spying on some friends and neighborsThese expectations were way offFor one I never read this book as a child I had it on my childhood bookshelf and I think I had read enough of the first few pages to have learned how to play Town when I was 7 or 8 but I never read this entire book like I thought I had After the first few pages everything was unfamiliar so I really had no nostalgic feelings to help me appreciate the book as an adultSecondly this book is not light hearted; it's like social commentary on the lonely lives of priveleged NYC children I find this book depressing on so many levels Harriet is so completely neglected by her parents and misunderstood by her friends and peers and she shows her classmates very little understanding eitherFinally Harriet doesn't appear to grow at all through this very tedious story through very little fault of her own as the adults she looks up to are such poor role models and I NEED my characters to grow Even after all she endures when her notebook is confiscated she still continues to make superficial and mean spirited notes largely about the people she spies upon being fat or ugly Come on Harriet learn something Even Ole Golly disappointed me with her culminating letter to Harriet that came with the brilliant life lesson that 'sometimes it is just best to lie' with nothing further to help Harriet grasp the concepts of empathy or tactMy heart breaks for Harriet who has clearly been permanately scarred by her parents' emotional abandonment but at the same time I just completely disliked her and her tantrums and cruel observations Perhaps I'm being a bit hard on an eleven year old protagonist but then I look at other admirable literary child characters like Tree ear in A Single Shard or Annemarie in Number the Stars and I just don't think a little growth is too much to expect at Harriet's age I have a hard time believing that today's middle school children would find her very easy to relate to either and I like my 'classics' to be timelessSorry I wish I could be but I'm just not a fan Harriet as an onion was pretty priceless though If only the entire book had been like that scene