Home » Uncategorized » Harriet the Spy’s 50th Anniversary, Nice Guys in Fiction, and More

Harriet the Spy’s 50th Anniversary, Nice Guys in Fiction, and More

My original copy of Harriet the Spy.  N.B.  I crossed out "zany," knowing even then it was an insult.

My original copy of Harriet the Spy. N.B. I crossed out “zany” in the top line, knowing even then it was an insult.

Oh my God, girls!  Did you grow up on Louise Fitzhugh’s Harriet the Spy?

It is the 50th anniversary of Harriet –1964:  The Beatles on the Ed Sullivan Show and Harriet the Spy!–and you can now buy an anniversary edition of this children’s classic, which “includes tributes by Judy Blume, Meg Cabot, Lois Lowry, Rebecca Stead, and many more, as well as a map of Harriet’s New York City neighborhood and spy route…”

Harriet was my favorite heroine. As many of you know, she is a writer.  She takes her notebook with her everywhere and writes down exactly what she thinks about friends and enemies.

She writes of Pinky Whitehead, a pale, thin weak boy who annoys her:


And of her friend Janie, who wants to blow up the world:



The worse for wear…

When her classmates get ahold of her notebook at recess, they read it aloud and shun her.  How can she win them back?  She only said what she thought…

As you can see, my edition is rather tatty, but it is still readable.  This is one of my favorite children’s books, though I hadn’t thought of it in years.   I won’t buy the anniversary copy,   but I liked it so much as a child that I insisted on wearing boys’ sneakers like Harriet.


eugenie-grandet-honore-de-balzac-paperback-cover-art1.  At the Barnes and Noble Review, Heller McAlpin writes about Eugenie Grandet,  “Does anyone read Balzac for pleasure?” Well, yes, we do.  Here is the link to what I wrote about Eugenie Grandet last year.

2.  At The Huffington Post, Claire Fallon writes, “These ‘Nice Guy’ Book Characters Aren’t Really That Nice.”  My problem with this article:  Two of her 10 examples are from Jane Austen, and two more from Shakespeare.  Doesn’t she read any other books?

What do you think?  Are these characters nice or not?  (I think some of them really are.)

3.  Locus, a science fiction magazine, announces Karen Joy Fowler has been nominated for the PEN/Faulkner Award for her novel We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves.  Fowler, best known for The Jane Austen Book Club, is widely known for her science fiction.  Thumbs up to PEN/Faulkner for nominating this.

4.  And, finally, here are favorite paintings of women reading at The Sleepless Reader.

7 thoughts on “Harriet the Spy’s 50th Anniversary, Nice Guys in Fiction, and More

  1. I confess to never having read the book – but my youngest child was pretty obsessed with the film (I think it might be something to do with sharing the name!!)

  2. I read Harriet the Spy when my daughter did, and enjoyed it very much.

    Thank you for the link to the pictures of women reading. Quite wonderful!

    About those “nice guys”. I didn’t think Angel Clare was so “nice” and was not surprised when he turned on Tess. He was as much a victim — in his case of rigidity and moral blindness — as Tess was of the society in which they lived. Also I never thought St. John was nice either. He was self centered, fanatical and quite willing to sacrifice others to his purposes.

  3. Karen, Harriet is wonderful! I don’t think I can make myself read it again, but it certainly meant a lot. Carrying around a notebook, taking notes, only I must say mine weren’t very interesting.:) She got to drink egg creams, and I didn’t know what those were until I grew up and moved east. (They’re like ice cream sodas without the ice cream.)

    Nancy, I’m glad you enjoyed Harriet. A nice mother-daughter bonding exercise. I absolutely agree with you about Angel Clare. He was dreadful. But what about Laurie? I think he was genuinely nice. (And I can’t remember the others right now. I was divided on some of them.)

    Glad you enjoyed the paintings! Isn’t it wonderful when somebody posts something like that?

  4. Why have I never read Harriet the Spy?? My lack of depth in reading as a young person continues to astound me. Perhaps that is why I read all those shallow, middlebrow (but refined) mysteries.

  5. Belle, heavens, you are not shallow in the least. I first read Harriet the Spy at the library because of the cover! Reading about the new edition made me realize I had the paperback… I think you would enjoy it, though.:)

  6. I can reach out and touch HtS and TLS from where I am sitting. They are old favourites for sure. Although I never had my own copies as a girl, I found some a few years back (just as you’ve pictured above), well-worn as I’d’ve left them, had they been mine. What I have not yet found is the book she wrote which is so-much-less-well-known (can’t think of the title just now), which was considered such a departure at the time of publication (not that Harriet was like all the other books on the block by any means): that one makes me curious. In the meantime, I’m looking forward to my next reread of HtS, (BTW, have you read Catherine O’Flynn’s What Was Lost? The heroine so reminded me of Harriet….)

  7. OH, I wish I still had The Long Summer! I loved Beth Ellen, and was slightly more like her than Harriet: in other words, more boring. Oddly one of the things I remember most was Beth Ellen’s getting her period. (Or do I have that mixed up with another book?) Fitzhugh also wrote a book called Sport that I didn’t like as much. No, I’ve never heard of Cathering O’Flynn. I’ll put it on the list

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