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Harriet the Spy (Harriet the Spy #1)

3.97  ·  Rating Details  ·  67,069 Ratings  ·  1,758 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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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? (less)
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Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 3,000)
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AJ Griffin
Jul 03, 2007 AJ Griffin rated it really liked it
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
Zoë
Apr 12, 2015 Zoë rated it it was amazing
Book 33/100 of 2015

4.5/5
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
Darth J
Feb 26, 2015 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
...more
Hayes
Mar 09, 2010 Hayes rated it really liked it
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
Dave
Sep 08, 2007 Dave rated it it was amazing
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
Apr 06, 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
...more
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
...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
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
Oct 29, 2014 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
...more
Kressel Housman
Sep 02, 2008 Kressel Housman rated it it was amazing
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
Aug 27, 2015 Melissa McShane rated it liked it
Shelves: own, middle-grade
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
D.M. Dutcher
Jan 05, 2015 D.M. Dutcher rated it did not like it
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
...more
Sarah Sammis
May 27, 2008 Sarah Sammis rated it it was ok
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
...more
Mandy McHenry
May 14, 2012 Mandy McHenry rated it did not like it
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
Alex
Nov 20, 2015 Alex rated it it was amazing
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
...more
Robyn Groth
Mar 29, 2014 Robyn Groth rated it really liked it
Shelves: read-alouds, 2014
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
Jenn
Jul 19, 2007 Jenn rated it it was amazing
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
Joan
Oct 05, 2014 Joan rated it it was ok
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
Amy
Mar 12, 2014 Amy rated it it was amazing
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
...more
badfae
Oct 16, 2008 badfae rated it really liked it
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
Belinda
Mar 20, 2015 Belinda rated it it was amazing
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
...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
Kathleen
Oct 26, 2011 Kathleen rated it it was amazing
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
Wendy Darling
I cannot believe in all these years of reading this book, I completely overlooked the queer subtext. WHAT IS WRONG WITH ME? The things I learn from our classics readalongs! Also, one of our blog friends mentioned it's possible Harriet may be on the autism spectrum. One of those cases where discussing a book makes you look at something you love in a whole new light.

Our whole discussion is here: http://www.themidnightgarden.net/2014...

Read the comments, too--our readers/friends are so smart!
Kavita Ramesh
Jan 01, 2016 Kavita Ramesh rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favorites
Hands down my favorite (non-fantasy) children's book of all time.
I saw the movie first (sadly), so the thrill of the plot was lessened, but despite that, I fell head over heels in love with this story.

I have read all 3 books in this series, and this one is the best of the lot. (Though the others aren't bad reads either.)

Deborah Markus
Nov 20, 2011 Deborah Markus rated it it was amazing
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.
Mrs. Joseph
Oct 22, 2014 Mrs. Joseph rated it it was amazing
One of my all-time favorite books as a kid. I love how smart and creative Harriet is and I loved to emulate her as a little girl. I remember making maps and observing people in my neighborhood, just like Harriet did.
Sherwood Smith
Jul 30, 2015 Sherwood Smith added it
Shelves: fiction
Tremendously influential when I was an angry, isolated early teen

Mental note: update review.
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Fiction 2 3 Apr 27, 2016 07:51AM  
101 Books to Read...: Harriet the Spy 10 10 Apr 18, 2016 05:45AM  
Goodreads Librari...: Please add cover for edition and update details 2 14 Nov 29, 2015 06:41AM  
To All You Notebook Carriers 16 99 Aug 05, 2013 07:07AM  
Harriet the Spy is the most important book of my childhood 25 149 May 18, 2012 05:48PM  
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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
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.” 86 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.” 62 likes
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