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Harriet the Spy Paperback – May 8, 2001


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Product Details

  • Age Range: 8 - 12 years
  • Grade Level: 3 - 7
  • Paperback: 320 pages
  • Publisher: Yearling (May 8, 2001)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0440416795
  • ISBN-13: 978-0440416791
  • Product Dimensions: 7.5 x 5.1 x 0.9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 4.8 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (234 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,659 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

Ages 8-12. Thirty-two years before it was made into a movie, Harriet the Spy was a groundbreaking book: its unflinchingly honest portrayal of childhood problems and emotions changed children's literature forever. Happily, it has neither dated nor become obsolete and remains one of the best children's novels ever written. The fascinating story is about an intensely curious and intelligent girl, who literally spies on people and writes about them in her secret notebook, trying to make sense of life's absurdities. When her classmates find her notebook and read her painfully blunt comments about them, Harriet finds herself a lonely outcast. Fitzhugh's writing is astonishingly vivid, real and engaging, and Harriet, by no means a typical, loveable heroine, is one of literature's most unforgettable characters. School Library Journal wrote, "a tour de force... bursts with life." The Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books called it "a very, very funny story." And The Chicago Tribune raved, "brilliantly written... a superb portrait of an extraordinary child." --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From School Library Journal

Grade 3-5-Harriet is determined to become 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. Her life is turned upside down when her classmates find her notebook and read it aloud!. By Louise Fitzhugh.
Copyright 1999 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to the Audio Cassette edition.

More About the Author

Louise Fitzhugh was born in Memphis, Tennessee on October 5, 1928. She was the only child of attorney Millsaps Fitzhugh and Louise Perkins. After attending an exclusive girls' school, Miss Hutchison's, she attended three different colleges but never obtained a degree, and traveled in Europe, before finally settling down in New York City to pursue a career as a painter. In the late 1950s she and a friend, Sandra Scoppetone, began work on a beatnik parody of Kay Thompson's Eloise, which was published in 1961 as Suzuki Beane. In 1964 she published her first novel, Harriet the Spy. Although it received mixed reviews from adults at the time, today it is widely regarded as a forerunner to the sort of realistic children's fiction that would dominate the late 1960s and 1970s. Two novels about Harriet's friends followed: The Long Secret in 1965 and Sport, published posthumously in 1979.
Contemporary social issues figured prominently in much of Fitzhugh's work for children: Bang Bang You're Dead was a 1969 picture book with a strong anti-war message and Nobody's Family Is Going to Change (1975) explored both women's rights and children's rights. Ironically, it became the basis of the Broadway musical The Tap Dance Kid with the book's minor male characters taking a lead role, thereby completely overshadowing Emma, the female protagonist. Needless to say, this happened after Fitzhugh's untimely death in 1974 at the age of 46. After her death, three picture books were also published: I Am Three, I Am Four, and I Am Five.

Customer Reviews

I loved it when I first read it as a child a few years later, and have always remembered it fondly.
John D. Cofield
Harriet the Spy By Louise Fitzhugh I have read Harriet the Spy, watched the movie and listened to the book on tape.
Jill Vanderwood
This is a classic for a reason; wonderful, real characters, a hilarious story, and life lessons that ring true today.
Amazon Customer

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

183 of 190 people found the following review helpful By Alfred Jensen on May 14, 2006
Format: Paperback
When I was 9 I was finally moved up to the advanced reading group in my class. In order to catch up, I had to read Harriet the Spy in its entirety over Thanksgiving break. I was extremely dismayed, I had never even seen a book so big, much less read one! But, I devoured it in two days. I didn't live in New York and I had never kept a journal, but everything that happened in the book was completely familiar. It was, I think, the first work of literature I had ever read on my own.

Skip ahead 14 years. I reread this book in my local library on a lazy Saturday afternoon. I loved it, but I can understand the qualms expressed by some parents about the book The question is: What is the point of having children read - is it to present them with 2-dimensional models of correct behavior, or else to provoke their thinking, reasoning, and analytical skills? I think it's very telling that a reviewer who gave this book one star literally threw it into the fireplace - this is the type of book that people who hate books burn.

People criticize Harriet for being rude or mean, but I think they are a little off base there. Harriet is a smart 11 year old, but she is an 11 year old just the same. Assigning adult motives and value judgments to her behavior is flat-out unfair. She's just a kid, and this is how kids behave, not when you're around, but on the playground and in the classroom where they are discovering peer interaction.

In fact, this is a very moral story. Harriet learns that there are reasons for lying - it isn't being hypocritical (as adults often do seem to children) but rather to spare other peoples' feelings - sometimes it's better to be kind than to be truthful.
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54 of 56 people found the following review helpful By peter wild on February 5, 2002
Format: Paperback
When I was ten years old, my teacher was Mrs Stanley.
Mrs Stanley (like all great teachers) refused to teach us what she was told to teach us. Instead she taught us what she felt we ought to know. One of the things she felt we ought to know was "Harriet the Spy."
Harriet the Spy is Harriet M. Welsh, a little girl who keeps a notebook in which she writes thoughts and observations about her friends and the people around her. She also has a spy route made up of six or seven houses she passes on the way to and from school each day. She writes about the houses on her spy route in the notebook each day also.
As a kid, you can understand the desire to peer in windows and you can share Harriet's frustration with grown-ups, what they say, what they don't say, all that. As a kid, you share the sense of isolation visited upon Harriet when her notebook falls out of her bag and is read by all the people in her class. You also share the good times and the laughs, of which there are many, with her. When you are a kid, you read "Harriet the Spy" and it's the story of a little girl whose world falls apart for a little while and then appears to be on the mend.
Years later, I read the book again (sort of glimpsed through half-closed eyes, thinking: this will not be as good as I remembered). You know what? It is every bit as good reading the book as a (so-called) adult as it was reading the book as a kid. Since then I get through "Harriet the Spy" at least once a year. It has become a kind of tradition with me. My little girl is even named after her.
"Harriet the Spy" is a golden classic. There are not many books like this. The five star rule goes out of the window. Other books you can measure with stars. Harriet the Spy is like the night-time sky. There are too many stars to count.
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123 of 134 people found the following review helpful By E. R. Bird HALL OF FAMETOP 500 REVIEWER on March 21, 2004
Format: Paperback
I have a theory about "Harriet the Spy". I suspect that no adult that read this book once (and only once) as a child remembers it correctly. For example, if you had asked me, prior to rereading it, what the plot of "Harriet the Spy" was, I could have summed it up like so: Harriet the Spy is about a girl who wants to be a spy. She spies on lots of different people and writes in a notebook, but one day all her friends read the notebook and none of them like her anymore. That is the plot of "Harriet the Spy". And I would be half right. Surprising to me, I found I was forgetting much much more.
In truth, "Harriet the Spy" is about class, loss, and being true to one's own self. Harriet M. Welch (the M. was her own invention) is the daughter of rather well-to-do socialites. Raised by her nurse Ole Golly until the ripe old age of eleven, Harriet must come to terms with Ole Golly's eventual abandonment. Ole Golly marries and leaves Harriet to her own devices just as the aforementioned tragedy involving her friends and the notebook occurs. The combination of the nurse's disappearance from Harriet's life (leaving behind such oh-so helpful pieces of advice as, "Don't cry", and the like) and the subsequent hatred directed at Harriet by her former friends makes Harriet into a veritable she-devil. A willful child from the start (punishments are few and far between in the Welch family) Harriet slowly spirals downward until a helpful note from Ole Golly gives her the advice she needs to carry on.
So many things about this book appeal to kids. The realistic nature of peer interactions is one. Harriet randomly despises various kids, even before her notebook is read. After making their lives terrible, she eventually has to experience what they themselves have had to deal with.
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