Monday, July 2, 2007

Harriet the Spy by Louise Fitzhugh

Recommended by Kulsum

I'm sure some of you may have already read this book, but I wanted to share the revelation it was for me to read this novel last week. I had never heard of it (not being born and raised in North America perhaps), until my writing mentor recommended that I read it in order to get comfortable with the narrative voice that I myself am exploring in my writing project.

What a wonderful, simple story it is. Harriet is a young girl who copes with her first experience of loss, and separation from someone she loves. A young, observant girl who notes down everything she sees without censorship or judgement, Harriet eventually has to pay for her frankness, and is thrown into an emotional tailspin while trying to negotiate her her sense of self in the midst of the crisis she has found herself in.

Despite this rather heavy-handed synopsis, the book is funny, sweet, and beautifully written. It predates Judy Blume, but has all the same sensibilities. I let out a great big whoosh of breath at the end of the book because reading it had made me remember so much of my own childhood and the simple pleasures I found in making up games and stories and all sorts of people in my head. Or peeping out the window and watching the neighbours, wondering about their lives.

I highly recommend this book if you haven't read it yet. And a re-read if you have. It's a classic, a quick read, and best of all, it makes you happy like eating chocolate makes you happy.

It's available online at or, or in the US at

1 comment:

Kanani said...

I loved this book when I was in the fifth grade. That was back in the 70's, and it was the first book I'd read about a girl my age, going through all the kidstuff and where it wasn't all idealized.

This was back before the Junie B. Jones, the Judy Blumes, and all the others. Harriet was the original "it" girl who gave voice to quiet girls who observed everything and had an opinion and might later want to be writers.