Harriet the Spy

by Louise Fitzhugh

Other authorsLouise Fitzhugh (Illustrator)
Paperback, 1990



Local notes

PB Fit




HarperTrophy (1990), Edition: Reissue, 298 pages


Eleven-year-old Harriet keeps notes on her classmates and neighbors in a secret notebook, but when some of the students read the notebook, they seek revenge.


Original language


Original publication date


Physical description

298 p.; 7.66 inches

User reviews

LibraryThing member amygatt
I love this book - it was one of my mom's favorites when she a young reader, and when she recommended it to me when I was in middle school, it became one of my favorites. Harriet writes down a lot of the things that many people will often think but not say, which is shocking at first! One of the
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things that is so special about this book is its honesty - Harriet is extremely honest and the author is honest about what happens when people find out. Harriet writes some terrible things in her notebooks, but she is also treated very badly by her peers when they find out what she has been writing in her spy notebook, and I think a lot of young adult readers can relate to her feelings of being outcast.

This book is controversial because it deals with some hard topics - for example, Harriet's friend Sport is 11 years old and has to do the cleaning and cooking for his father, because his mother left them and they have no money. Its honesty is also a little harsh at times - One of Harriet's first entries included in the book is, "I bet that lady with the cross-eyes looks in the mirror and just feels terrible." Harriet always tells the truth and it is sometimes hard to swallow, but this is an excellent read. Harriet is very relatable and intelligent and this book gives young readers a lot of credit. I would recommend it to middle school and early high school readers.
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LibraryThing member tonyasbooks
Warning: may cause children to want to become spies and carry spy notebooks.
LibraryThing member KRaySaulis
It's funny how different you read a book as an adult than when you were a child. As a kid I felt so bad for poor Harriet, what with her mean classmates invading her privacy and reading her journal... As an adult... Harriet is a brat. She is mean, spoiled, negative and has horrible things to say
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about those around her. However it's pretty obvious that, like most children, she is a product of her parents who sit around the dinner table insulting all of her friend's parents each night. It's really no wonder she doesn't write kindly, however she never truly learns that lesson, either! She simply learns to lie about her friends and continue to insult those on her spy route!

That being said, this book inspired me as a child. It made me want to write, and it still has that effect on me. However, I wouldn't want my child to strive to be like Harriet... just try one of her screaming sessions in my house...
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LibraryThing member DanaJean
This book is one of my all-time favorites. As a child, I wanted to be just like Harriet, so I walked my neighborhood and observed. Although I never had the balls to actually hide in someone's dumbwaiter. Of course, I knew no one who even had a dumbwaiter, so I guess that's a mute point.

Anyway, I
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then went home and wrote down my findings on index cards for my trusty card catalog. It was important that I be able to find, at a moments notice, exactly what I thought of the strange woman at the end of the street who was afraid of children and would come unglued if we touched her yard. It also inspired me to write my own How-to pamphlet titled: How to be a Spy. Yeah. That's right. I'm soooo original.

Really a very lonely story that taught me to look outside myself and really see other people in a more compassionate way. Just a great book for children and adults alike.
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LibraryThing member foggidawn
Harriet M. Welsch is going to be a writer some day. For now, she is observing everything she can, from her family to her classmates to the neighbors she observes on her "spy route." She writes candidly (and often cruelly) in her notebook, but when that notebook is discovered and read by her
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classmates, Harriet is headed for trouble!

I haven't reread this book in years, and what struck me this time is how well Fitzhugh wrote about the experience of childhood. Harriet is kind of a brat, and I wouldn't want to be around her in real life, but she manages to be sympathetic in the context of the story. This childhood classic is one I highly recommend for both children and adults.
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LibraryThing member eheleneb3
This young-adult book is the book that made me want to be a writer. Harriet is a eccentric, notebook-toting little girl in New York City. She has an obsessive habit of jotting down her impressions of friends, family, teachers, innocent-bystanders and neighbors, among others, in this notebook. She
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also manages to maintain a regular spy route, on which she observes people whose lives she finds interesting, taking meticulous and insightful notes the entire time.

The true test of Harriet's character comes when her notebook gets stolen and her friends and classmates read what she has writen about them. It forces her to grow and mature in a way she did not believe she was prepared for, but she is all the better for it in the end. I would recommend this book to anyone, whether an adult or child, or somewhere in between.
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LibraryThing member kates
One of the best books of all time. From its pages comes one of my mottos: Harriet saying, "I want to know everything, everything!"
LibraryThing member francescadefreitas
I barely remember reading this book when I was little, but on rereading it, I realised how large an impact it must have made. Several ideas I hold dearly come almost directly from the main character.
As well as going to school and hanging out with her friends, Harriet practices being a spy, writing
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down all of her observations. This leads to a conflict as she struggles with being completely honest, but still keeping her friends. Harriet is a wonderfully real eleven year old girl, with sweetness and a mean streak, with the need to slam doors and yell.
The thing that made the book wonderful to me now is how easily it transported me back those days of my childhood, when afternoon lasted for ever, and there was always something interesting happening.
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LibraryThing member angharad_reads
Classic story of the eleven-year-old writer who constantly observes people —even when they don't know it— and is perpetually jotting down facts and all her impressions.

I started reading this book because I wanted to read about Harriet: a bold, unapologetic pre-teen. I was amused by how
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blogger-like all her journalling seemed, and charmed by her distinctive friends and acquaintances. Because of its realism, I wouldn't have expected to like this novel (I suspect that's why I never finished reading it when I was Harriet's age), and yet that very realism blew me away.
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LibraryThing member Harrietthespy
I first read this book when I was eight years old. I read it again many years later for a class-"Library materials for children". Reading the book a second time really gave me more insight into the people that Harriet was spying on and how she viewed their lives. If you look at her friend, Sport,
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you realize that he may live with his father, but in fact, Sport is the father. Because his father drinks, or it is eluded to that he does, he must do the shopping, pay the bills, keep up the house. I didn't realize this at eight and that is why I recommend it so much. There are a lot of kids in the world like Sport and I think they can identify with him.
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LibraryThing member librarybrandy
Another book I'm declining to rate, because it's such a mix I just don't know. My heart goes out to Harriet, who is hitting that age when nothing makes sense and everything that would never happen in a million years suddenly happens. I recognize the part of her that's just had the rug pulled out,
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the betrayal of her beloved nanny leaving compounded by all her classmates turning on her--but at the same time, my sympathy is tempered by Harriet's brattiness. Most, if not all, of her school problems are ones she brought on herself, and while she does eventually apologize for everything she said, she doesn't seem to feel a lot of genuine remorse. She wins her way back to her classmates' good graces by doing more spying and gossiping, only this time about their parents.

The writing, though, is excellent, and timeless in a way so many books aren't. Harriet's voice is so true to the horrors of sixth grade that it's eerie; never once did I get the impression that the story was being told by an adult who was pretending to be this socially-awkward pubescent girl.

I just didn't like Harriet. Also, the narrator for the audio book makes Sport sound like Milhouse from The Simpsons. That never ceased to be distracting.
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LibraryThing member alice443
I positively loved this book as a child. I recently reread it and it still makes me laugh.
LibraryThing member MissMarch
I completely agree with book58lover: the problem with this book for me is that Harriet does NOT learn her lesson. At the end of the book she's still doing exactly what she wants and she is still writing equally horrible things about the people around her in her notebook, true or not. She may
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understand that she hurt people but for me she just ended up looking like a brat, which I was very disappointed by as I liked her at first. There were flashes of brilliant insight by Louise Fitzhugh into the mind of a child and how they see the world, and I did like the idea of the spy route as well as the character of Ole Golly very much (and did feel sorry for Harriet when she left), but I really feel that Harriet did not redeem herself by the end of the book. I know a lot of people love this book and all I can say is, perhaps I would have liked it better if I had read it as a child.
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LibraryThing member Chuck37
Every kid in my class wanted to be a spy after reading this, and most of us started carrying around notebooks of our own. Harriet is another one of those characters who you don't often come across, as well as her friends. A bit slow in parts, but overall a wonderful experience. Every 10-year-old
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should read this.
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LibraryThing member kscarlett01
Harriet the Spy is about a typical young girl, except for the fact that she spies on everyone and writes everything down in a notebook that she carries around with her all the time. One day, Harriet's book ends up in the hands of her friends and they discover all of the things that she has been
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writing about them. Harriet must find a way to put her friendships back together. This book is great for teaching children about the consequences of gossiping.
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LibraryThing member PatsyMurray
Harriet the Spy is one of the greatest children's novels ever written. It is a true classic.

In the 1970s my father, who was blind, when to NIH for an operation. He shared a room with a crusty old Navy man. One afternoon my Dad was listening to Harriet on records. His roommate spoke up and said,
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"Would you mind turning that off for awhile?" "Oh, sure, no problem," said my Dad, "I didn't mean to disturb you." "Oh, it's not that," said the fellow, "I have to go downstairs now for some tests and I don't want to miss anything." Harriet the Spy is that suspenseful. It is also a highly amusing and touching story.

Harriet is extremely bright and curious and trains her intelligence on becoming a spy. Not to give away too much, but her spy rounds introduce her to a wide range of personalities -- each with their own flaws and virtues. Through her observations, Harriet is learning how people make their way through life. One man lives for his cats, another feeds hungry children from goods stolen from the shop he works for, another woman decides to spend all day in bed until her doctor orders her to stay all day in bed. All of these people are flawed, and they are all interesting and of value in their own way. What better lesson to learn?

When her notebook is accidentally dropped and her classmates read her true thoughts about them, they are deeply hurt and angered at her frank evaluation of their flaws. After she endures much at their hands and receives some of the same pain they felt upon reading her notebook, Harriet gains true empathy for
them and begins her journey into maturity. And if you think this sounds "too preachy," I will just refer you to the scene where Harriet plays the part of an onion and her father joins in. Louise Fitzhugh captured the essence of what it means to be a child.
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LibraryThing member debnance
Harriet loves to write down everything in her notebook. Some of it is nice. Some of it is not-so-nice.

And then Harriet loses her notebook.

And then Harriet loses all her friends.

You don’t often find a story with the emotional resonance of Harriet the Spy.
LibraryThing member AJBraithwaite
Found this on one of those 'books every child should read' lists and then immediately downloaded it as an ebook from the library. I enjoyed it, although I'm sure I would have enjoyed it more when I was a child. The same list had 'Peter Pan' and 'Wind in the Willows' on it, neither of which I've
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enjoyed as an adult, so I suppose I shouldn't be surprised at being underwhelmed by this one.
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LibraryThing member CasaBooks
How did I miss this in 1964 ?
Can't believe I didn't read it and are there others in the series.
Longer than I thought it would be.
Great book - kids are awful, aren't they ? And then they grow to adults and here we all are with all our foibles and quirks.
HUGE reminder to never write down your
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snarky, mean thoughts and then get caught at it !
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LibraryThing member Anna.Nash
I am sad I didn't read this as a child. Harriet is exactly the kind of precocious character I loved to read about. Harriet is interested in everything. She is going to be a writer and is practicing by keeping a spy journal. When she loses it one day and the people she's been writing about see the
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cruel things she writes about them, including her best friends Sport and Janie, they start a Spy Catchers Club to make Harriet's life miserable. Harriet is a bit of a jerk and can be very unkind and retaliates out of anger and embarrassment, but what kid isn't a jerk sometimes? This is a great book for any kid who has ever done something they are sorry for and any kid who has felt rejected or like an outcast. This is a great classic that stands the test of time.
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LibraryThing member desislc
A word of warning to all who read this book (especially those still in school): DO NOT follow Harriet's example by keeping a notebook such as hers and leaving it where anyone can find it. Reading this book led me to do such a thing in 6th grade and what happened to me was similar to what happened
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to Harriet. It's embarrassing- really!
I recently reread parts of this book and it struck me how adult it is for a children's book. There are things that I understand now that confused me as a kid (ex. the psychologist, Harriet and Sport's class/wealth differences, Harriet's school). I still did like it when I first read it, though it never was one of my absolute favorites.
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LibraryThing member jeriannthacker
Harriet is a privileged 11 year old growing up in New york City. She keeps a journal, where she records observations that help her practice for her future career in spying. When Harriet's notebook is found by her friends, she realizes that even secret thoughts can get her into trouble.

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Sequoyah Book Award Winner, made into a movie by Nick Films.
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LibraryThing member mrsarey
A classic young adult novel- this is the story of Harriet, who spies on friends and neighbors in order to make sense of the world around her. Trouble begins when she gets caught!
LibraryThing member jnleonard
It was an mysterious book with an unexpected ending. You would expect her life to go on well untill her friends turn against her in the notebook incident. She suddenly fells to get revenge. When she tries to apoligize it doesn't work out so well.
LibraryThing member clshelkoff
This book is about a girl named Harriet that writes down everything that she thinks and sees. Her thoughts can be considerd hurtful to others. Her classmates find her journal and read it to the class. Harriet now has no friends. Her classmates are constantly making fun of her and whispering. Read
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this book to find out if Harriet can resolve the conflict with her classmates.
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