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Harriet the Spy: 05/27/08
Since naming my youngest Harriet, I've had a number of people ask me or just outright assume that I named her for the title character from Louise Fitzhugh's novel Harriet the Spy (1964). She isn't named for the book but she did prompt me to read the book.
Many of the books reviews I've read for Harriet the Spy credit it for being ground breaking its brutally honest portrayal of childhood. Maybe it's the first (or among the first) to depict children in then contemporary society. The book though was noteworthy enough to win the Sequoyah Book Award.
I wish I could say I liked the book, but frankly, I didn't. Harriet is an unlikable and unreliable protagonist. She is left in the care of everyone except her ever absent parents who only actively take part in her life when everyone else has given up. She is first in the care of a governess, Catherine, though always called by Harriet's nickname, Ole Golly. She is later left in the hands of the less than sympathetic cook. Her parents are only ever there to be off to parties or to be overheard arguing.
Harriet meanwhile is given free reign to spy on her friends and neighbors. She's filled up 14 note books since her 8th birthday (she's 11 in the book). When she's finally caught spying her compulsive need to write in her note books becomes rather scary to read. Before her parents even try to talk to her, she's sent to therapy.
Harriet's tragic year seems to be more a scathing look at the wealthy rather than childhood in general. Maybe that's what makes Harriet so unusual. Most YA books seem to children from blue collar families.
Ho, dear, I just mooched this book. Well, I'll give it a shot. It's pretty short so that's good."
Harriet the Spy is still a very popular book. Most readers seem to like it. Don't be scared off just because I didn't like it."