Harriet the Spy at 50

Classic paperback Harriet the Spy

Browsing the magazine racks at Newsbeat in Davis, I stopped in my tracks when I saw the Horn Book magazine May/June 2014 issue. I immediately recognized the ink drawing on the cover. It was Harriet the Spy, my all time favorite heroine.

During summer break, my best friend's mom would drive us to the Citrus Heights library every week and we would check out our maximum number of books. We would lie on the grass reading in the hot Sacramento sun until we saw spots and then retire to the house to play board games for awhile. Sometimes we used stories we read as inspiration for our imaginary play. We especially liked any books about pioneers (anything by Laura Ingalls Wilder was head and shoulders above the rest of the genre).

When we discovered Harriet the Spy we both fell in love with her. When I read the various articles about Harriet the Spy and Louise Fitzhugh I was surprised so many of the authors did not like Harriet, though they loved the book.

Horn Book Magazine

Maybe because my best friend was also named Harriet, I was inclined to like Harriet the Spy. Yes the same friend who swapped piles of library books mid-week with me enjoyed the enviable name Harriet. My mom who thought she did me a real favor by naming me the beautiful (incredibly common name) of Julie, could not understand the allure of the unique name Harriet. And then the best fictional heroine ever shared the name.

Loved this movie adaptation of Harriet the Spy!

I read the book several times as a youth. Then the movie, Harriet the Spy, came out when my children were the same age I was when I discovered the book. I reread the book and called Harriet to discuss her impressions of the film adaptation. We were surprised by some of the casting choices and thrilled with the overall movie.

This particular book helped me deal with the emotional impact of being ostracized by everyone in sixth grade and to cope with the fallout from my own blunt outbursts.

This book deserves the attention on her 50th birthday. Still subversive, still relevant.