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Harriet the Spy

(Harriet the Spy #1)

3.95  ·  Rating details ·  97,305 ratings  ·  2,585 reviews
Now a Major Motion Picture from Paramount Pictures! Harriet M. Welsch is determined to grow up and be a famous author. In the meantime, she practices by following a regular spy route each day and writing down everything she sees in her secret notebook.

Then one morning, Harriet's life is turned upside down. Her classmates find her spy notebook and read it out loud! Harriet'
Paperback, 298 pages
Published March 1st 1990 by HarperTrophy (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)
Emili Me))

This is a perfect book! It inspire me! After reading, I decided to play in a

This is a perfect book! It inspire me! After reading, I decided to play in a
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Average rating 3.95  · 
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 ·  97,305 ratings  ·  2,585 reviews

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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
AJ Griffin
Jul 03, 2007 rated it really liked it  ·  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
If you've ever spent any time wondering how fictional characters like Olive Kitteridge, Eleanor Oliphant or Don Tillman got to be who they are, you need look no further than Harriet the Spy.

It's all here, in this book.

Harriet is a lot like these adult characters, but she's a child, an 11-year-old girl.

And, we learn quickly, she never suffered abuse or neglect. Neither parent committed suicide. She wasn't sexually molested by a neighbor, either.

She's just freaking quirky.

Is she somewhere “on the
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
Darth J
Jun 13, 2013 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
Sep 08, 2007 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." ...more
Apr 12, 2015 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Book 33/100 of 2015

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
Deborah Markus
Mar 29, 2014 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
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
Yes indeed, I do very well realise that many children’s literature experts (professors, teachers, researchers) do seem to strongly consider that Louise Fitzhugh’s 1964 Harriet the Spy is to be seen as a classic realistic children’s novels. But honestly and truly, as an actual reader (and both in the autumn of 1977 when we read Harriet the Spy for grade five English and in the winter of 2021 when I reread Harriet the Spy in order to revisit and post a Goodreads review), sorry, but even though wit ...more
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
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
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
Mar 13, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
One of my favorite pre-teen books.
Jenny Baker
This is one of those rare moments when the movie is better than the book. The movie is so cute! Now that I've read the book, I want to rewatch the movie. ...more
Dec 08, 2014 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
I don’t even know how to rate this. Don’t ask me why I picked this up. A booktuber who decided to go back and read old childhood favorites to see if they held up inspired me to do the same. I was fairly outraged by her depiction of Harriet as the most vile child protagonist on earth. Not the cute smart little Harriet from my memories! So I decided to pick it up and give it a go. First surprise was that the book was 400 pages. Not the little thin book I was expecting.

Now, to be fair. I hardly rem
Dec 28, 2011 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Louise Fitzhugh was one of those rare children's book authors who actually understood what it meant to be a child, what the world seen through those eyes actually looks like. Harriet M. Welsh is right up there with Scout Finch and Francie Nolan as one of the all time great child heroines in literature. She is whip smart, casually cruel, constantly shouting weird nonsense, frustrating, brilliant and always, always surprising. She's a self styled "spy" who basically stalks her neighbors, family an ...more
Mandy McHenry
May 14, 2012 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
Ross Blocher
I did not read Harriet the Spy as a young adult, as many others have, but I can recognize that Louise Fitzhugh did an amazing job of capturing the drama and fixations of childhood. Harriet is destined to be a spy, or at least a writer, and obsessively takes notes on everyone around her: her opinions of them and what they're up to. She sneaks into others' houses and back alleys and overhears conversations, all to fill up her notebook. This all goes south when [I will warn of a spoiler, but the sy ...more
Sarah Sammis
Oct 24, 2007 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: pc, released
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
Kressel Housman
Sep 02, 2008 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
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:

Read the comments, too--our readers/friends are so smart!
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
Oct 04, 2014 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
Mar 12, 2014 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
Jul 19, 2007 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
Aug 02, 2012 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I wanted to be Harriet. I even started carrying a notebook around and writing what people were doing in it, just like she did.
Mar 11, 2015 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
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Play Book Tag: Harriet the Spy by Louise Fitzhugh - 3 stars 2 15 Feb 19, 2018 05:34PM  
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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

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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