Harriet the Spy, by Louise Fitzhugh

When I was in elementary school, I had a Spy Club. My two best friends (at the time) and I would go out into the neighborhood and write down what was going on, no matter how boring it was, and then we would meet in my room to discuss. I don’t know for certain, but I can only imagine that this was brought about by me reading Harriet the Spy.

As such, I have very fond memories of this book, in which one Harriet M. Welsch spies on people for fun, writing down everything she thinks about them from the mundane to the mean. Then, as these things go, Harriet’s notebook gets picked up by her schoolmates, who find out just what Harriet thinks about them (focusing on the mean things, of course) and completely shun her. Then, in my memory, Harriet does something nice and everyone is friends again.

Spoiler: that is totally not the case! Oh my goodness. I had completely blocked from my mind how terrible of a person Harriet is. When her notebook is revealed to everyone, her first stop is the stationery store (this is an old book) to get a new notebook for writing down even more vicious things than before. And what brings her back to her friends is lying. Lying! She gets told by her former nanny that little white lies are very important for getting along in society, and so she just tells everyone j/k, lol, she was totally lying about all of those things she said. And apparently the other students believe her, even though they’ve been reading Harriet’s mean screeds about other people in the school newspaper. Mmmmmmmmhmm.

So now, on the one hand, I feel very differently about Harriet. I’m even a little scandalized. But on the other hand, I have different fingers, and also I love this book a little more because it is so honest about how life tends to be. Granted, I’m not sure that Harriet would ever actually be accepted back into her old circles, but I can certainly believe that her friends would at least try to forgive her. I definitely see the Harriet of seven days after this book ends already getting in trouble again.

Recommendation: Perhaps this should be read by older kids, or at least ones mature enough not to take the ending as a license to lie all willy-nilly. Also good for adults who have a disposition toward schadenfreude.

Rating: 9/10
(Flashback Challenge)

See also:
Book Nut
Bermudaonion’s Weblog

Pass me yours, if you’ve got ’em.

One thought on “Harriet the Spy, by Louise Fitzhugh

  1. kaye says:

    my granddaughters recently viewed this film for the first time and for weeks afterward wandered up and down my road spying and taking notes in little notebooks. I didn't know it was a book. I'll have to get a copy.

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