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Book Review

Publisher's Note:

Meet Harriet M. Welsch -- one of the most unforgettable, funniest characters in children's literature. Harriet is a girl with only one ambition in life: to be a spy. She works hard at it -- filling her secret notebook with observations about her parents, friends, and neighbors. But when her classmates find her notebook and read her mean comments about them, Harriet finds herself shunned by everyone. How can she put her spying talents to good use and make her friends like her again?…

Harriet the Spy

by Louise Fitzhugh

Overall Book Review:

Harriet the Spy is not your average spy story—nor is it your average ‘coming of age’ story.  There is a great deal of depth as we follow Harriet through a very difficult time in her life.  For Harriet, when it rains, it pours, it seems.  She is thrust into a horrible situation as she finds herself completely alone:  Ole Golly (her nanny of 11 years) has left, her parents are too busy to talk to her, and her friends have all turned against her.  Harriet is such a lovely and flawed character—the perfect ‘kid’!  She is self-centered and self-preserving and I constantly found myself wondering if she would ever figure out how to make things right, but I loved her for it!  She calls herself a spy—and was very good at seeing outward appearances.  I enjoyed following her on her spy route and watching the antics of the different people she spied on: The Dei Santi family with their restaurant, Little Joe Curry with his street urchins, Harrison Withers and his cats, Mr. and Mrs. Robinson and their ‘baby’…  What funny characters! 

There is nothing shallow in this book.  It is complex and full of morals and lessons.  The emotions are deep and resonating.  I felt the hollow hole after Ole Golly’s leaving; the anger and hatred when the notebook is found and everyone shuns her; the loneliness of feeling that no one loves you nor wants you around; the crush of your spirit when they take away that which is most precious to you and what makes you who you are.  I read this out loud to my children, and we had some great discussions—it brought up some very interesting points about life and growing up.  Harriet the Spy takes you on a journey of self-discovery.  It is at the same time funny, heart breaking, hilarious, and frustrating, and is a coming of age story that will strike a chord in children and adults alike!

Content Analysis:

There are a few mild instances of profanity in this book(6). 

The violence usually consists of the average middle school vindictive acts: hitting others (or imagining hitting others), tripping people, chopping off someone’s hair, etc.  There was also a lot of shouting (one character was always a bit frustrated) and some mild mental abuse, such as shunning, mocking, breaking another’s spirit. 

Mature Subject Matter:

The mature themes are fairly mild, such as: dealing with the sudden loss of a close friend/loved one, dealing with ostracism, and learning to stand on your own two feet.

Alcohol / Drug Use:


Overall Book Rating

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About the Reviewer

I read anything and everything. I love the smell of books. My kids giggle at me when I open a new box of books from Amazon and I inhale the new pages and rub the shiny new spine against my face! 🙂 My husband just rolls his eyes at me and is grateful he has me on a budget! 🙂