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Harriet the Spy (Harriet the Spy #1)

3.96  ·  Rating Details ·  76,907 Ratings  ·  1,932 Reviews
Harriet M. Welsch is a spy. In her notebook, she writes down everything she knows about everyone, even her classmates and her best friends. Then Harriet loses track of her notebook, and it ends up in the wrong hands. Before she 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 h ...more
Paperback, 298 pages
Published February 15th 1979 by Dell (first published 1964)
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Susan Collinsworth I don't see anything in any of the Harriet books that makes me think she's a lesbian. In the era in which those books were written, (the era in which…moreI don't see anything in any of the Harriet books that makes me think she's a lesbian. In the era in which those books were written, (the era in which I grew up) people her age were not as sexualized as they are now. So she was too young to be thinking about stuff like that, so the author doesn't address it. Harriet does not dress like a typical girl of that era, and isn't interested in girly things. Maybe that "outsider" status would appeal to YA lesbians? Who are all one homogeneous group, after all, and all like the same things. ;o) Fitzhugh herself was a lesbian, maybe that's why?
Edited, 8 months later to say: Maybe she will be a lesbian, maybe not. We don't know and we can't tell, and Fitzhugh doesn't tell, because Harriet's ONLY ELEVEN YEARS OLD. Now, probably some people know at that age what their sexual orientation is (or will be, or whatever). But believe me, kids back then, society back then, was not quite as obsessed with prepubescent children's sexual orientation. as we seem to be now. To me, that is partly the point of writing a book with younger characters - not just to appeal to younger people because the story is about their peers, but also because one can deal with life issues unimpeded by the kinds of distractions, entanglements, and problems that arise in a story that includes sex and sexuality (less)
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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 concerned.

This 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
Apr 12, 2015 Zoë rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Book 33/100 of 2015

Darth J
Jun 13, 2013 Darth J rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: awesome
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 dur
I loved this book as a kid. I may just have to read it again!!

And 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 heart.

Harriet 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 Park.

The typical "brownstones" (single family, 3 a
Sep 08, 2007 Dave rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: kidlit
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."
Deborah Markus
Mar 29, 2014 Deborah Markus rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This isn’t a great children’s book. This is a great book whose protagonist happens to be very young.

This 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 rea
First Second Books
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 more conventional femininity, and how quickly their parents give up that schem
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 neighbors.

These expectations were wa
Ladies and gentlemen, I would like to introduce you to a very important person to me: Harriet M. Welsch, aka Harriet the Spy. She has been there for me on more than one occasion when I've needed her and she has not let me down. I don't anticipate she ever will.

I read this book at least once every year or two, or at least generally when things in life are rather poopy. I consider this the macaroni and cheese of the literary world, my mashed potatoes, my pudding. I just had my thyroid surgically r
May 04, 2009 Daisy rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Life-changing. I am not kidding. She was my heroine.

"Lovely, lovely. Now let's see, vegetables first, vegetables..." Sport started to sprint for the door. Miss Elson pulled him back by the ear. Pinky Whitehead arrived back. Miss Berry turned to him, enchanted. "You will make a wonderful stalk of celery."
"What?" said Pinky stupidly.
"And you"--she pointed at Harriet--"are an ONION."
This was too much. "I refuse. I absolutely REFUSE to be an onion."

"Sometimes you have to lie. But to yourself you mus
D.M. Dutcher
It's surprising how mean-spirited this book is.

Eleven year old Harriet wants to be a spy. She writes down all of her thoughts about everyone in a notebook she always keeps on her. She also goes around town spying on as many people as she can, learning things and always, always writing down what she thinks.

This backfires tremendously when her schoolmates find her lost notebook, and read every single honest and often nasty thing she wrote about them. And just as her favorite nurse, and the only on
Kressel Housman
Sep 02, 2008 Kressel Housman rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: kids who want to be writers
When I was in fourth grade, I would have named Harriet the Spy as my very favorite book, even though I only read the first half of it. I re-read that first half so many times though, it was practically an obsession. First of all, Harriet's commentary in her notebook in hilariously funny. But more than that, I wanted to be a writer just like Harriet, so I was going to do things her way. I even went so far as to look in one of my neighbor's windows for material, but I got caught on the first try. ...more
Melissa McShane
I used to really, really love this book. Louise Fitzhugh has a fantastic style, and Harriet's voice comes through clearly. Harriet, whose ambition is to be a writer and a spy (her commitment to each varies throughout the book) writes in her notebook constantly. Mostly she's keeping notes on the people around her, both her classmates in her sixth-grade class and the people she spies on. The latter are fascinating and so well portrayed, with all their quirks and oddities. But Harriet doesn't pull ...more
Sarah Sammis
Oct 24, 2007 Sarah Sammis rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: released, pc
Since naming my youngest Harriet, I've had a number of people ask me or just outright assume that I named her for the title character from Louise Fitzhugh's novel Harriet the Spy (1964). She isn't named for the book but she did prompt me to read the book.

Many of the books reviews I've read for Harriet the Spy credit it for being ground breaking its brutally honest portrayal of childhood. Maybe it's the first (or among the first) to depict children in then contemporary society. The book though w
Mar 12, 2014 Amy rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: boozy-reviews
Is it wrong to do a boozy review of a children's book? Well, this review is not for children, and as it turns out, the book is a delightful read for adults as well as kids.

I hadn't read it in a few decades, but somebody just mentioned it to me and I picked it up again. Let me tell you: Reading Harriet the Spy as an adult is like watching Rocky and Bullwinkle as an adult. You realize that 90 percent of it got right past you when you were a kid.

This book is smart, funny, sarcastic, dark, weird, a
Robyn Groth
I like Harriet. I'm surprised by how many reviewers describe her as unlikable.

Harriet is a spy, but not because she's a creeper. She's intelligent and curious. She's a writer.

And in order to be a good writer she needs to learn more about life than she'll learn from her privileged home life or her fairly normal school life.

So she spies, and she writes down what she sees and thinks, intentionally working on her descriptive writing skills. She writes about her friends, schoolmates and family, and
Mandy McHenry
May 14, 2012 Mandy McHenry rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: books-for-kids
HATED THIS BOOK! Seriously, what is the big deal about it? I never read it as a kid, but it was on a list of "Books about Brave Girls" and I thought that we'd give it a go for a read aloud with my girls. WORST BOOK EVER! I HATED Harriet! She was so nosy, so rude, and I kept waiting and waiting for her to learn her lesson, and SHE NEVER DID! In fact, in the end she comes right out and says that she should just LIE! EXACTLY THE OPPOSITE of what I am trying to teach my girls! We had a good discussi ...more
Dec 08, 2014 Alex rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2014
Harriet the Spy was one of my very favorites when I was young; I'm happy to cede the World's Biggest Harriet Fan crown to El, but I was pretty amped to run across this at a stoop sale.

When I first read it - possibly also when I second read it - I immediately started carrying my own notebook around and writing in it all the time. Everyone did, right? I got in super trouble for that, too, because my fourth grade teacher - I think it was fourth? - confiscated it, and then read it, and then I had t
Jul 19, 2007 Jenn rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I started reading early and started reading beyond my age level very quickly, so I was pretty much beyond children's books way before I was done being a child. Sometimes it seems like I went directly from Dr. Seuss to Grimm's Fairy Tales and then on to adult books. But this was one children's book that truly changed my life.

The book is about a little girl who fancies herself a spy, and keeps a "secret notebook" full of observations about her family, classmates and neighbors. I imagine that most
Ivana Nešić
Nov 07, 2016 Ivana Nešić rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Ovo je kao da čitam oridžin stori nekog superzlikovca. Harijeti stvari bivaju uskraćene, svi joj okreću leđa i ona postaje super-zla i to je to.
OK nije to to, ali ne znam tačno šta je.
Ovo je roman iz sasvim drugog vremena koji se javlja iz potrebe da kaže čitaociima da su posluga ljudska bića i da su i ljudi manje srećni i pametni od nas ljudska bića. I zbog svih stvari koje je (svojom krivicom ili ne) Harijeta izgubila, ona se oseća baš loše, baš je teško za čitanje koliko se ona loše oseća, us
Sherwood Smith
Tremendously influential when I was an angry, isolated early teen

Mental note: update review.
Mar 11, 2015 Belinda rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: children-s-books
Wow. Just wow. I want to make this review as excellent as possible but I honestly don't know that I have the skills to describe the perfection of this book. Somehow, growing up in the 70's and 80's and being a huge reader, I still missed this amazing book. I honestly feel like it would have given me more confidence if I had read it--it's that important.
Harriet is an 11 year old girl living in New York City. She is not your typical kid--she writes obsessively in her journal (notebook) and is inc
Oct 04, 2014 Joan rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Joan by: June Krell
I don't seem to be getting a coherent feeling about this book, so I may just start rambling and see what develops. For starters, did anyone besides me feel that Ole Golly was a terrible influence on the kid? Sure, we want kids to learn that telling the truth matters but there is a higher value: that of kindness. Telling the truth that a child has been abandoned by her Dad isn't kind. Or that a boy is so boring, he is known in her mind as The Boy with Purple Socks. The implication is that Harriet ...more
I received this book as a birthday gift on either my sixth or seventh birthday (I think it was my seventh. I still remember the name of the friend who gave it to me, too). I loved it then, and I still do now. Harriet is a quirky kid, a bit out-of-step with her peers, and that was something I could always relate to (not to mention my childhood ambition to be a writer!).

I used to read it at least once a year, growing up, even after I was "too old" for it (you're never too old for Harriet), but ha
Deborah Markus
Nov 20, 2011 Deborah Markus rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I just read this for the billionth time -- this time out loud, to my son. Pronouncing each word forced me to notice the casual brilliance of Fitzhugh's prose. "There was a cold wind off the water, but the day was one of those bright, brilliant, shining days that made her feel the world was beautiful, would always be, would always sing, could hold no disappointments." "She looked out over the water to the neon sign whose pink greed spoiled the view at night." Dazzling.
Jul 31, 2015 Selene rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
3.5 Stars
(Classics & Cabin Fever) I remember reading this story as child and enjoying it. I am listening to this story, but I'm not loving it starting the 2nd disk of the book. It's slow and rambling. It improved a little toward the end, but you might need to be a child of the past to appreciate it.

* Harriet wants to be a spy
* Jamie, Harriet's best friend, wants to be a chemist
* Sport, token boy in their friendship threesome, wants to be an accountant
* Ole Golly's adept handling of Harriet
* Ole
Aug 23, 2011 Kathleen rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Harriet observes the world around her and documents everything she sees in her notebook. She spies on a range of people in her life and takes copious notes about the good, the bad, and the terribly boring. She keeps tabs on her neighbors including the wealthy woman in her apartment building who lies in bed all day talking on the phone, the loud family that owns the corner grocery store--and her friends. Harriet doesn’t hold back in her notebooks, and she gets into big trouble with her classmates ...more
When you talk about books that you read in your childhood most of the time you don't remember the story. You don't remember all of the characters. You don't remember how long it took you to finish it.

But what you do remember is probably the most precious gift of discovering literature as a child. The story lifted you beyond the gravitational pull of this earth and delivered you to some place else. You couldn't wait to go. You wanted to read under the bed covers in the middle of the night, on th
Nov 15, 2016 Cheryl rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Third attempt to read. Still don't like it. But then, I don't like Catcher in the Rye, either. Or The Nanny Diaries. I just find it terribly depressing to read about ugly-spirited, self-centered, stupid people like this. And for a bit I thought it was going to go all Lord of the Flies and be interesting on a classic level, but no, the ending is a cop-out.

Or maybe I just don't get it. So I read the sequel, The Long Secret to see if hindsight would illuminate. It didn't.
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Born in Memphis, Tennessee. She attended Miss Hutchison's School and three different universities, without obtaining a degree. According to her obituary in the New York Times, Fitzhugh graduated from Barnard College in 1950. She lived most of her adult life in New York City and had houses in both Long Island and Bridgewater, Connecticut.

She was married briefly to Ed Thompson, whom she dated in hig
More about Louise Fitzhugh...

Other Books in the Series

Harriet the Spy (3 books)
  • The Long Secret (Harriet the Spy #2)
  • Sport (Harriet the Spy #3)

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“Don't mess with anybody on a Monday. It's a bad, bad day.” 89 likes
“[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.” 63 likes
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