Harriet the Spy by Louise Fitzhugh

Harriet the Spy. Louise Fitzhugh. Yearling, c.2001. 320 pages.


Harriet M. Welsch, eleven-years-old, wants to grow up to become a famous writer but for now, she’s a spy. Harriet spies on her classmates, friends, and neighbors, writing his observations in her secret notebook. One day, during a game of tag, Harriet loses her secret notebook and it’s found by her classmates. The kids become furious when reading her observations aloud. They form a Spy Catcher Club and make Harriet’s life miserable. Eventually, however, Harriet is made editor of the school newspaper and is able to win her friends back.

Review/personal thoughts:

Louise Fitzhugh’s Harriet the Spy was one of my very favorite books as a kid! It inspired me to buy a black and white secret notebook of my own and spy on my neighbors. Unfortunately, my neighbors weren’t as interesting as Harriet’s…but I suppose that’s what books are for, right? Though the size of the book might be intimidating or off putting to some tween readers (it’s over 300 pages!), I think that once they begin reading it they’ll be hooked. Fitzhugh’s characters are fascinating and often hilarious, as are Harriet’s observations. And Harriet herself is wonderfully complex. Though she sometimes comes across as self-centered and can be brutally honest, she is very much an accurate representation of an eleven-year-old girl. The observations written in her notebook are often downright cruel! However, over the course of the novel, Harriet does begin to grow and develop. She becomes more considerate of other people’s feelings, realizing that it’s important it’s not to hurt the feelings of those you care about.

Genre: realistic fiction

Reading/interest level: ages 8 to 12


New York Times Outstanding Book of the Year, 1964

Sequoyah Book Award, 1964

Similar titles: Matilda by Roald Dahl

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