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183 of 190 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Are you comfortable with books that make you think?
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...
Published on May 14, 2006 by Alfred Jensen

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18 of 19 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars This book is too hard for me
I am an 8-year-old girl who is starting 3rd grade now. I read this book over the summer for my summer reading project.
It is a long book and it is taking me a long time to read it. I do not always like the character Harriet. If Harriet went to my school, I don't know if I would want to be friends with her. Sometimes the words in the book were hard. I could read them,...
Published 12 months ago


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183 of 190 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Are you comfortable with books that make you think?, May 14, 2006
This review is from: Harriet the Spy (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. Watch the way Harret interacts with her friend Sport: she learns for the first time to show consideration for other peoples' feelings - not because you will get punished, but because they will get hurt, and you do not want to hurt the people you care about, even though so often you inadvertently do. This is a complicated message that the target audience (kids 9-12) are learning IN REAL LIFE which is why the book resonates with so many readers of that age (and beyond).
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51 of 52 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Harriet and the Night-Time Sky, February 5, 2002
This review is from: Harriet the Spy (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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122 of 132 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars There's a girl who leads a life of danger, March 21, 2004
This review is from: Harriet the Spy (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. Author Louise Fitzhugh is such a good writer, though, that even as you disapprove of Harriet's more nasty tendencies you sympathize with her. Honestly, who would want ink dumped down their back? As Harriet observes various people on her spy route, she writes her observations about them as well as about life itself. She hasn't quite figured out the differences between her life and the life of her best friend Sport (the son of an impoverished irresponsible writer) though she does briefly ponder if she herself is rich (the fact that she has her own private bath, nurse, and family cook never quite occurs to her). On the whole, the book contains a multitude of wonderful characters. Harriet's parents are both amusing and annoying, completely dedicated to their daughter and completely clueless about her needs. I was especially shocked by a section of the book in which Harriet asks her mother if she'll be allowed to eat dinner with her parents that night. Gaah!
Accompanying the text are Fitzhugh's own meticulous line drawings. They're fantastic and eerie. Combined with this timeless story (timeless in all the good ways) the book deserves its status as one of the best books for children. Read it again to remember. You'll find a whole lot more than you bargained for.
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18 of 19 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars This book is too hard for me, September 1, 2013
A Kid's Review
This review is from: Harriet the Spy (Paperback)
I am an 8-year-old girl who is starting 3rd grade now. I read this book over the summer for my summer reading project.
It is a long book and it is taking me a long time to read it. I do not always like the character Harriet. If Harriet went to my school, I don't know if I would want to be friends with her. Sometimes the words in the book were hard. I could read them, but I didn't know what they meant. I was hoping this book would be funny, but it's not. The age on the back of the book says 10 & up. I think I should read this book again when I'm a little older.
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13 of 13 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars One of the Best Books from Any Genre, August 1, 2000
By A Customer
This review is from: Harriet the Spy (Paperback)
I am working on a Ph.D in literature, but "Harriet the Spy" remains one of my guilty pleasures. Louise Fitzhugh was capable of producing highly literary characters in the guise of children's fiction; to those parents who've complained that the book is "too dark" and "too negative," well, some might say the same of Dostoyevski or Balzac. Life ain't all roses and sunshine, people! This book is a brilliant and ripping satire on the affluent life of New York's Upper East Siders, with whom I am quite familiar, as well as on the skewed parental values of the 1970's. It is also a book about a little girl who suffers for her art, which every budding artist and antiheroine will relate to on several levels. Enjoy this book, and steer clear the dreadful, treacle-y film at all costs!
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53 of 66 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Almost there..., October 30, 2000
This review is from: Harriet the Spy (Paperback)
I'm going against the grain by not saying I am completely thrilled by this book. I think the real problems lies in the fact that I read this book as an adult and not a child. Don't get me wrong... Harriet is a great young female character, especially considering the era she was first written in. She's unabashedly smart, clever, creative, independent, goal-oriented, and realistically complex. Her story is believable, and I am sure these are reasons why the book appeals to people. This book is also humorous and very well written.
I guess the only reason this book leaves a slightly bad taste, for me, is that it is lacking in compassion, in real heart. Harriet hurts people through her actions and really does not seem to learn a lesson in the long run. The dangerous lesson I feel I got from this novel isn't about how to treat people, but rather to tell people what they want to hear and to do what you will, just don't get caught.
This story really is worth reading, especially for girls, but I warn that maybe a little supervision is needed to add a little kindness to an otherwise worthy story.
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11 of 12 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars I memorized entire chapters: "Harriet" is amazing., March 9, 1997
By A Customer
This review is from: Harriet the Spy (Paperback)
My aunt gave "Harriet" to me when I was seven years old. I instantly fell in love. I took the yellowed hardcover with me everywhere. I memorized entire chapters. To this day, it's one of the best books I've ever encountered. It inspired me to keep writing into a stronger place. I was the kid with the notebook when I was little, estranged by my one-time friends, busy with a leaky fountain pen. To love is to truly accept. "Harriet the Spy" continues to amaze me. Truly the best buy for aspiring writers who need a little extra. Loneliness is everywhere in this society, and the vivid descriptions and observations of this eleven year old are so full of advice and wisdom that all ages can benefit with a little understanding.
If you have not read this book-- do it. The loss of friends, growing up, being alone, coping are so usual that they don't receive enough attention. This was the book I plunged into when I was depressed. Find room on your bookshelf. This is a real keeper. Harriet is not only a very accurate character, but a loveable and intense young woman. We've all been misunderstood-- this is the path to understanding.
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11 of 12 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars My favorite childhood book, September 26, 1999
By A Customer
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This review is from: Harriet the Spy (Paperback)
My sixth grade teacher read this book to our class many years ago. You never saw so many disappointed faces as when she read the last page. We wanted it to go on and on.
Harriet is unlike most female characters in children's books: she's daring, adventurous, smart, and motivated. But she has her problems, too, and this book is superb is showing how she learns to overcome them and how this contributes to growing up.
It's lively, funny, and thought-provoking, and the author really understands what kids' lives are like, even if the NY city setting may be different from what many kids are used to.
Read it and enjoy!
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10 of 11 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Complex, fascinating book, January 3, 2005
This review is from: Harriet the Spy (Paperback)
I absolutely LOVED this book when I was a child. I think like many other reviewers, I responded to the book because I identified with Harriet as a somewhat odd, intellectual, socially awkward child. Harriet was my heroine because of her perseverance and her integrity, and her detached sense of being an observer of the world. In the 60's and 70's, such complex portaits of the world of children were unusual (Judy Blume came a little later, and was also a favorite). I started eating tomato sandwiches every day for lunch, formed a spy club with my friends (I was always Harriet, of course), bought a composition notebook and took notes in BIG BLOCK LETTERS, just like Harriet.

One caveat: Reading the book again as an adult with my young daughter, it seems much more negative than I'd remembered. Harriet lacks empathy or compassion for the feelings of her friends; her parents are neglectful and incompetent; the departure of her beloved nurse, Ole Golly, seems much more intimately connected to her later troubles. My daughter asked pointed questions about these issues. Thankfully, the detached parenting portrayed in the book (not only by Harriet's parents, but also those of her friends) is dated today. On the other hand, the portrayals of the characters are still as vivid and lively as I'd remembered, and the book is still very very funny.
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A tried and true classic!, November 14, 2005
This review is from: Harriet the Spy (Paperback)
Boy, the fun one has when they decide to re-read as many books from childhood as possible! The image of this book is forever etched in my brain. It was a present from my grandmother. I remember, at age 8, wondering if I would ever be able to finish such a thick book. I managed and loved it so much that I was delighted to know that there was another Harriet book entitled "The Long Secret" and read that as well.

I went through life from age 8 to the present age of 30 remembering the book "Harriet the Spy" as a book about a girl who lives in New York City who spies on people in the neighborhood and takes notes. I remember her having a nasty edge to her and that everyone got angry with her upon discovering her notebook with her writings. What a difference 22 years makes!

Harriet M. Welsch is the child of socialites who don't appear to be around a great deal. She is usually left in the care of her beloved nanny Ole Golly, a very wise, well-read woman who frequently offers Harriet advice about life and how to behave. Despite her sternness, it is clear how much she cares for Harriet and vice versa. Harriet likes to spend her free time spying on neighbors, taking catty (but often accurate) notes about her observations. Soon, though, Harriet's world as she knows it comes crumbling down. First Ole Golly is let go and then her classmates read her notebook and find out what she REALLY thinks of them. How does Harriet deal with the changes? Well you'll just have to read the book yourself.

As an adult, I seem to be able to read much more into this book than when I read it as an eight-year-old. Now that I actually live in NYC, I *see* children who are a lot like Harriet, whereas the semi-rural Canadian upbringing I experienced as a child was nothing like Manhattan! It is also interesting to note the parallel to Harriet's life with the author's own life. When you read a bio on Louise Fitzhugh, you can see remarkable similarities to her story and that of Harriet. I am now also able to realize why Harriet acts the way that she does and empathize with her.

All in all, it's a very eye-opening experience to re-read favorite books from childhood. I certainly recommend reading Harriet the Spy again!
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Harriet the Spy
Harriet the Spy by Louise Fitzhugh (Hardcover - October 24, 2000)
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