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

3.97 of 5 stars 3.97  ·  rating details  ·  48,468 ratings  ·  1,278 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
Hardcover, 304 pages
Published October 24th 2000 by Delacorte Books for Young Readers (first published 1964)
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AJ Griffin
Jul 03, 2007 AJ Griffin rated it 4 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition 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
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
Dave
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."
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
Kressel Housman
Sep 02, 2008 Kressel Housman rated it 5 of 5 stars  ·  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
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
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
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
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
 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
Evelyn
If you read what shelves I put this on, and if you notice my rating, you'll probably will be able to figure out just what I think of this book. Must I be more clear? THIS BOOK IS AWESOME (the caps are so you see it better, since you obviously couldn't see my shelves and rating).

Must I go into more detail. I must. Here we go:

This is a kids' book, that's clear from the pretty enormous font. And the simple language. And so on. But, if you are a parent reading this to your children, then you are in...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
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
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
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
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
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.
Aleks
Nov 08, 2009 Aleks rated it 4 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition Recommends it for: young girls and boys
Shelves: young-adult
My 4th grade teacher, Ms. Kimball, read this too us as a class. I read it on my own afterward, whether the same year or the year next. I loved it. And then I tried to be a spy.

Harriet the Spy is great for a variety of reasons.

1) Strong female ACTION hero for young girls and boys. I say action because she climbs, gets into trouble, sneaks, is "weird", plays rough. All the things young boys are doing in books for children and only *sometimes* are found in the girl characters.

2) Strong friendships...more
Natalie
This was definitely the "Book that Hooked" me. I got it when I was in 4th grade and still have the hardback version, dog-earred with my shakey handwriting in it.

Like others have mentioned, I identified with Harriet, was a tomgirl, thought I wanted to be a writer, kept a journal and had odd friends like Janie and Sport, hated girls like Marion and always enjoyed asking "Why?" about others, watching people and wondering about their behavior, trying to guess their motivations (20 years later becomi...more
Heather
Jan 31, 2013 Heather rated it 5 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Heather by: for tween's class
Eleven year old Harriet M. Welsch fancies herself a spy. Armed with her spy tools and her ever present green composition book, she travels around her Manhattan neighborhood writing down the goings-on of the colorful characters that crossed her well-worn spy route. No one is exempt from Harriet’s overly honest and sometimes hurtful commentary, not even her best friends Sport and Janie. One day, while playing an innocent game of tag Harriet loses her most beloved notebook. Unfortunately for Harrie...more
Catherine
I had never read this as a child; perhaps I would have liked it better when I was younger. This book is Mean Girls written in 1964 for a younger audience.

Harriet doesn't learn how to be nicer even after her classmates read her secret notebook. She produces a gossip sheet at the end of the book, which seems to give her to the will to go on, but she is still unkind.

Her parents are self-absorbed and leave the care of Harriet to a nurse who in the end doesn't miss her - she is just "a lovely memory...more
lucy by the sea
Lucy Longstocking review http://www.wcl.govt.nz/blogs/kids/ind...

Harriet is a busy body who lives with her far-too-busy parents and her never-too-busy nanny. When I say “busy body”, I mean “snoop”. Harriet likes nothing more than an afternoon spent spying on the people in her neighbourhood then heading home with a notebook full of observations for a tomato sandwich. I think books are better when the people aren’t perfect. None of the people in Louise Fitzhugh’s books are perfect: not the kids, n...more
Caitlin
A great quick read. I liked the style Fitzhugh used to describe the life of a child. She used just the right amount of exaggeration and wonder, creating the feeling that you were witnessing the life of Harriet M. Welsch.

Best Passage:

"'Good-by, Harriet the Spy,' whispered Ole Golly into Harriet's neck. Harriet felt tears start in her eyes. Ole Golly put her down sternly. 'None of that. Tears won't bring anything back. Life is a struggle and a good spy gets in there and fights. Remember that. No n...more
Amy Keyishian
I loved this as a kid, and even remembered and could recite scenes as I listened to it on an audio recording, but holy crap, this book does NOT hold up. For one thing, there's so much that Harriet says just as a matter of course -- saying someone is so fat she shouldn't leave the house, saying that someone blushed so red she looked like "a hook-nosed old Indian" -- that are now out of fashion for good reason. It's jarring to read them. Also, Harriet is a freakin psycho and so is her friend Janie...more
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To All You Notebook Carriers 16 85 Aug 05, 2013 07:07AM  
Harriet the Spy is the most important book of my childhood 26 131 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.” 66 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.” 49 likes
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