Harriet the Spy (Harriet the Spy #1)
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Harriet the Spy (Harriet the Spy #1)

3.97 of 5 stars 3.97  ·  rating details  ·  53,464 ratings  ·  1,392 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, 300 pages
Published May 8th 2001 by Yearling (first published 1964)
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Community Reviews

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AJ Griffin
Jul 03, 2007 AJ Griffin rated it 4 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: lovers of onions; people with luscious diaries
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 meant.

How 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...more
Dave
Sep 08, 2007 Dave rated it 5 of 5 stars
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."
Hayes
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...more
Jillian
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...more
Deborah Markus
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...more
El
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...more
Cheryl in CC NV
This is one of those books that's so much more than it pretends to be. Written 'for' children, it doesn't condescend to them, and has a lot to say to adults too. The adventures about spying, and then dealing with the classmates' reactions, are exciting, but the book isn't really *about* that. It's about growing up, and individualism, and learning empathy, and poetry in print & the poetry of the soul, and love & loss, and what it means to be a parent, or a cook, or a nanny, or a teacher,...more
Kressel Housman
Sep 02, 2008 Kressel Housman rated it 5 of 5 stars
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
Lm
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...more
Daisy
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...more
badfae
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...more
 Marla
(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.

Likes:
* 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...more
Sarah Sammis
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...more
Jenn
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...more
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...more
Amy
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...more
Nute
Feb 07, 2010 Nute added it
Shelves: shelf-sitters
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...more
Kathleen
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
Nick
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Karol
Why, oh why, did I not know of this book when I was a child? It was published in 1964, and I would have been the perfect age to read it within a few years of that. I suppose in my family's Bobsey Twin and Nancy Drew world, my parents would not have liked such a flawed main character. Nor, living in a rural area with very involved parents, might I have related to her.

Obviously, I enjoyed the book now, at the age of - well, who cares about that? I laughed at quite a few of Harriet's journal entrie...more
Jessica
Nov 10, 2007 Jessica rated it 4 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: nosy diarists
This book taught me the word "fink," which is one of many things I can't believe has gone out of style. It also terrified me with disturbing descriptions of the mother's beauty treatments, which I didn't understand then and don't now.

This book has a somewhat unlikable protagonist who has a very unappealing home life. It presents what I remember as being a very dark view of human nature. The whole trilogy is excellent.

I actually went back and reread this in high school, and enjoyed it a lot then....more
Sandra A.
Harriet the Spy is a great book that I recommend to anyone from the age range of 12-13. The writing is a little old , so the dialogue is not exactly the same as today. The main idea of this story is about a girl named Harriet, who wants to become a spy when she gets older. She goes around her community and spies on people. While she spies on others she writes her thoughts about everything in her notebook. Then she loses her book and her schoolmates find it. Now everybody knows her thoughts abou...more
Sharon
I never read this as a child, but I had to pick it up as so many of my favorite writers mention it as an influential work. And I can see why: Harriet's story is that of every emerging writer. She's endlessly curious and passionate and the book is about her obsession for putting ideas onto paper--of watching the world, taking notes, and leaning from them. So many moments in this book resonated for me, as when Ole Golly said things like, "Remember that writing is to put love in the world…" and " L...more
Laysee
Eleven-year-old Harriet M Welsch was spying on her neighbors. I happily tagged along. She had a green notebook with her all the time. She wrote incessantly and compulsively her observations and spontaneous thoughts of her spying routes. Some of the notebook entries included the realization that she had a privileged background, that her sunny nanny could be sad, and that getting what you wished may not necessarily be a good thing.

However, her searingly honest thoughts, often critical and unkind,...more
Deborah Markus
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.
Julie
My greatest literary heroine: Harriet. My first source of intellectual inspiration and curiosity: Ole Golly. To this day I love tomato and dill sandwiches, the color yellow represents comfort and safety, and Dostoevsky rings poetic to my ears. To reread this book as an adult is to welcome home the dearest of long-lost friends...
Kelly Maybedog
One of my favorite books growing up, it was a character I could relate to and it had a good message without being preachy. It's one of the few books that I loved that my daughter loved, too. The main character was strong, intelligent, independent and still real. It's hard to believe it was written before I was born.
Jilly
I just reread this as an adult, and it's EVEN BETTER than I remember.

I was especially struck by a strange split from what you see in children's and middle-grade books today; though Harriet is very firmly a "kid" (and for a modern reader, a pretty young 11), the book doesn't condescend to young readers with overly-happy endings and sheltered situations. Her parents are absent, and so are most of her friends'. They drink and are self-absorbed. Kids are cruel and no adult intervenes. And her nurse...more
Anne
Humorous, observant, often-obnoxious, but always truthful musings from 11 year old Harriet M. Welsch. The "always truthful" parts are what throw Harriet over into "obnoxious" territory, but watching her navigate her way in the 6th grade world as she faces the loss of her beloved nanny, Ole Golly, and deals with her classmates after they've found Harriet's precious & brutally truthful spy journal is a rough road. Just like the 6th grade. However, Harriet's journey is peppered with humor &...more
Roy
It isn't often that you come across a children's book where the author really doesn't pander at all. Harriet is not written as a character. That is, she is not a collection of traits and quirks that readers are sure to find endearing and will transfer nicely to subsequent volumes of a series. Harriet the Spy is a novel that happens to feature a child as lead character, such as To Kill a Mockingbird can be described. Fitzhugh doesn't go to places as dark as Harper Lee did, or Salinger, so Harriet...more
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To All You Notebook Carriers 16 91 Aug 05, 2013 07:07AM  
Harriet the Spy is the most important book of my childhood 26 137 May 18, 2012 05:48PM  
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2560
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
More about Louise Fitzhugh...
The Long Secret (Harriet the Spy #2) Sport (Harriet the Spy #3) Nobody's Family Is Going to Change Bang Bang You're Dead I Am Three

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“Don't mess with anybody on a Monday. It's a bad, bad day.” 71 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.” 51 likes
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