Friday, May 4, 2012

Harriet the Spy

Harriet the Spy
Louise Fitzhugh
Delacorte, 1964
$15.95, Hardcover
April 10th, 2012

Genre: Realistic, School Story
Age: 10+
Description: Harriet M. Welsch is a spy. For a long time, she has written about the many people she spies on in her journal. Her comments are pretty rough—“Pinky Whitehead will never change. Does his mother hate him? If I had him, I’d hate him.” When Harriet looses her notebook and her friends read her comments about them they end up ostracizing her. Harriet finds her life upside down—with Golly gone she is all alone and refuses to stop writing and slacks off in school. Soon she’s faced to go see a shrink and eventually a plan forms to get her back on track.
Opinion: I must admit that I started reading this book and ended up hating the first half and put it aside for about a week. When I went back to it I found out I had only been one page—one page!—away from when Harriet looses her notebook and it was from then on that the story started getting more interesting. I overall really didn’t like this “classic” novel. I understand that it is a classic and I’ve wanted to read it for some time. I can also see how a bunch of people nowadays would complain about the content. Harriet is a very rude girl. Her comments are plain mean and hurtful. She calls a bunch of people fat, calls one girl a future Hitler, and so on. When Harriet’s notebook is found many of the classmates fight fire with fire and in response to Harriet they treat her exactly how she treated them (which isn’t a very nice way to promote dealing with such issues). A lot of what they do to her is actually a lot worse than some nasty comments—they steal her lunch, they spill ink on her on purpose (on her dress and in her dress), and so on. Harriet also doesn’t think about the consequences of her actions—one person she spies on she doesn’t even hesitate to walk into the person’s kitchen and hide in the dumbwaiter to spy on the lady. In the end, the way Harriet gets her friends back is by getting the job as the editor of the school’s sixth grade page and with the idea of putting her writing skills to use. Instead, her articles for the paper are just published versions of her journal comments just not on her classmates. She just now publishes her mean comments as gossip. The nicest thing she writes is a story about the cat man but we don’t even get to see what the story is—we just continue to see the mean stuff. Harriet uses the newspaper to apologize to her friends (as an editorial retraction) but still what do Harriet and her friends really learn? There is no real lesson about not talking bad about other people and no real consequences for everyone’s actions. I find this book disturbing and don’t think it has aged well.


  1. You know I was never comfortable with Harriet's actions. But there is something about her by the end that I appreciated. I have to say I am enjoying the multiple ways you court book lover heresy (Hugo, Wrinkle, now Harriet!). It took me years to come out of the Holden Caulfield hating closet.

    1. Die Holden Caulfield, Die!! I also do not like that book. I heard for years and years so many people saying, "This is my favorite book of all time." When I read it I was just like, "Really?" I didn't like it at all. I'm glad I'm not the only one. : )