Review: Harriet the Spy

Harriet the Spy
Harriet the Spy by Louise Fitzhugh

Harriet is not very nice. In fact, she is kind of mean. She is sneaky, nosy and generally disregards privacy in the interest of her own desire to uncover the ugly truth (as she sees it). Harriet the Spy is also a classic tale with a character so shocking and hypocritical that young readers cannot get enough of her. She spies on her classmates, her neighbors, her teachers, and when she is found out and her frank observations are exposed by her friends and school mates, she is ostracized by her peers.

The appeal of Harriet is her unwillingness to relent. Even after she has apologized to her friends and classmates, she is unwilling to give up her notebooks and her frank observations. She is a flawed character but one that kids her age (or any age really) embrace because they see themselves in her. She represents a spirit of defiant freedom that middle school kids identify with and her curiosity about the people in her world is universal. Children learn early on that if they want to know what’s REALLY going on, most of the time the grown-ups around them will not tell them directly. Eavesdropping is the oldest method of gathering intelligence and kids learn early. Reading about Harriet’s adventures validates what kids already know about their place in the adult world and although Harriet’s mean streak gets her in trouble, she is unwavering in her right to express herself in her writing. For aspiring authors, she is a hero; for everyone who has ever felt like an outcast looking in on the world, she is a fellow-observer; a kindred spirit. Harriet is a tomboy, a rebel and a spy. Even fifty years later, she speaks to new generations of boys and girls who can be those things with her vicariously.

Publisher: Yearling (May 8, 2001)

ISBN-13: 978-0440416791

Age Range: 8 – 12 years
Grade Level: 3 – 7
Paperback: 320 pages
Price: $5.25

Awards: Sequoyah Book Award (1967)


Who wants a spy as a friend? Follow Harriet as she finds out that sneaking around and taking note of all her friends’ secrets isn’t exactly the best way to keep them as friends.



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