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Book: Harriet The Spy

March 12, 2011

A testament to my brain power in the week leading up to now is that it took me a whole week (or more) to read Harriet The Spy. I just could not get through more than a chapter (and sometimes not even that) per night. Too tired, too overwhelmed. But last night I rallied and went through the last 6 chapters like lightening, and it was terrific.

Have you read Harriet The Spy? Long ago, maybe? It’s worth reading.

Harriet is a precocious 11-year-old who fancies herself a spy. She has a “spy route” during which she takes copious notes about her subjects. These notes can be kind of harsh. Brutally honest, shall we say? And sometimes not very nice at all. But Harriet is just calling it like she sees it. And after all, no one is supposed to read her notebook, so she should be able to write whatever she wants, yes? (whether or not she should be spying is another question)

Harriet should be a subject on Intervention, because she is seriously addicted to her notebook. Later on in the book, when it is taken away from her, she finds it difficult to function without her constant companion. This is one reason why I don’t write in my notebook all the time (although truth be told, I do carry a small one in my purse at all times) is because I know once I get started, I won’t be able to stop. There is something compelling about writing down your obervations.

Eventually, of course, Harriet’s notebook gets read, by the worst possible readers: her classmates. Oh, the horror! No seriously. Can you imagine? Your sixth grade class reading your most private thoughts about them? No wonder she was instantly cast out and picked on relentlessly. I did enjoy her revenge. Immensely. After all, as she points out, no one was supposed to read her journal. It was clearly marked PRIVATE. Like no one else ever had a rotten thought about someone in her class? Like no one else ever noticed that The Boy With Purple Socks didn’t have a name, and that he always wore purple socks? Like no one else ever felt angry at their best friend and harshly criticized him or her (if only in your thoughts?) As far as I’m concerned, Harriet’s only crime was that she wrote these things down, where they could be discovered.

Harriet eventually apologizes to her classmates, and she is allowed back into the fold. I hope she never stops writing down her obervations. Harriet is funny, smart, observant, biting, and intelligent. I loved her to bits.

Like all good neurotic New York children, Harriet does have her problems. She throws tantrums, she is occasionally rude, she gets sent to the child psychologist. But overall, I have to say that I thought Harriet was awesome. A bit inspiring, even.

(and can I just point out the cultural differences between 1960s New York and now? Harriet was allowed to run around her neighborhood at will, without a chaperone, at 11 years old. In New York. Alone. I feel bad for today’s kids sometimes.)

12 Comments leave one →
  1. trapunto permalink
    March 12, 2011 11:09 am

    That cover picture gives me nostalgic warm-fuzzies!

    • March 12, 2011 11:41 am

      I know! Don’t you love it? The interior drawings are fabulous too. I love that old-style wobbly-line illustration.

  2. Lara Starr permalink
    March 13, 2011 11:39 pm

    OOh I loved this book and would love to read it again. And while I don’t remember enough about either to say that the movie version was faithful, I do remember that it was charming.

    • March 14, 2011 9:33 am

      You would love it as an adult; I did. Harriet is such a little sassypants! Loved her.

  3. March 14, 2011 8:58 am

    Love Harriet!

    Another kid’s book that I still love is From the Mixed Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler. Did you ever read it? If not, give it a go. The thought of running away to live in a museum is so cool to me.

    • March 14, 2011 9:33 am

      Oh my gosh, I adored that book as well. I’ve been keeping my eye out for it to re-read.

  4. March 14, 2011 9:15 am

    I didn’t read Harriet the Spy when I was a kid. I don’t know how I missed it because it’s one I would have loved. I was probably too busy reading stories about animals and by the time I heard about Harriet I was “too old.”

    • March 14, 2011 9:33 am

      You should sneak it in this summer — it’s a perfect summer afternoon read. Not childish at all.

  5. March 14, 2011 1:41 pm

    oh i love this book, i need to reread it. and i agree with lara, the movie version is great.

    • March 14, 2011 8:17 pm

      I might have to check it out! I love the illustrations so much.

  6. March 15, 2011 7:43 am

    I LOVE this book, but it’s been ages since I’ve read it! I need to go check it out like now.

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