Book Review: Harriet the Spy by Louise Fitzhugh

While I surprisingly really enjoyed reading Harriet the Spy by Louise Fitzhugh, this particular book will always hold a special place in my heart because it was a gift from my late aunt, who we unexpectedly lost a little over a month ago. Everyone in my family knows that I love to read, so I wasn’t surprised that I received several books as gifts last Christmas. But not only is this one of my aunt’s favorite books, but apparently she borrowed it from her school library and never gave it back. I love books that have stories behind them.

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I will admit that I was a little hesitant to read this book, mostly because it’s a children’s story and I don’t know the last time I read a young children’s book.

But I really, really enjoyed it.

The Writing

The first word that comes to mind about this book’s writing is quick-witted, although the witty part wasn’t always there. I definitely felt like I was Harriet’s age when reading this (about 11 years old). The writing was simple and of course easy to read, but the author executed the voice of Harriet really well.

The Characters 

Speaking of Harriet, she’s a spunky kid who has her bratty moments. She was a fun character to read about even though I disliked some of her behaviors. But she goes through a lot of learning experiences in this book that are still relevant today. The biggest thing she learned is how to adapt and deal with major change in one’s life; in this case the leading of her nurse Ole Golly.

Ole Golly kind of reminds me of my own mother, but without all the book quoting. Ole Golly (Golly is her last name) is a well-read, smart, and disciplined woman. I got really excited when she quoted Dostoyevsky (even though I didn’t know the quote). She’s essentially a nanny and it seems that Harriet is far close to her than her own mother.

Harriet’s mother and father are characters that seem to come and go. They don’t take an active interest into Harriet’s life until she starts acting out.

Although I don’t feel like I got to know them very well, I liked Harriet’s closest friends Sport and Janie. They too go through some learning experiences.

The Plot

Harriet wants to be a writer/spy – I could never tell which was number one. I guess she combined the two. In order for her to write and take notes about what she sees, she has a ‘spy route’ where she basically spies on different people in the neighborhood and writes everything that she sees and hears down in addition to random thoughts she has at those moments.

Things take a turn for the bad when all of Harriet’s classmates happen upon her notebook that has all of her observations in them. Harriet didn’t always write nice things and all of her classmates get upset by what’s in her notebook. They all learned that even the smallest things can hurt someone’s feelings. They all learned that ‘getting back’ at someone isn’t always the best way or even the most sensible.

While I think Harriet learned a lesson or two in this story, I feel like she didn’t fully understand the importance of it by the end. She was still completely focused on writing and getting the ‘work’ done.

Overall this was an enjoyable read. I used it as a reading palette cleanser so to speak. I didn’t something quick and simple after reading the amazingness of The Night Circus.

Did you read this when you were younger?

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