My rating: 4 of 5 stars
Harriet the Spy was a book that was recommended to me to read to my kids, but in a way I’m glad it took me some time to get around to it. I think it may be a bit too much for younger readers, but for pre-teens, it’s great.
Harriet the Spy deals with a very real issue, namely, privacy. The right to one’s private thoughts is important. Harriet goes through a painful lesson when her diary, in which she has written many comments about others in town, including friends and acquaintances at school, is taken from her and read by those she has commented about.
The conflict comes when these friends and enemies all turn on Harriet. It’s a tremendous amount of conflict and the narrative tension comes from trying to figure out how it is to be resolved.
So many stories today have unrealistic endings, but Louise Fitzhugh found a way to resolve Harriet’s problems that works.
The book is not, in my opinion, a total win because it was a bit hard to reconcile its disparate parts. The first half of the book seems to have everything to do with Harriet’s relationship with her nanny Ole Golly. I had to explain a lot of that relationship to my kids, who don’t have a nanny. I also had to explain the race issue.
The first half probably has connections to the second half about the diary being stolen, but the only direct ones have to do with Harriet missing her nanny, writing her a letter, and getting a response.
To sum up, I’ll say that Harriet the Spy is a tougher read than one might expect; however, it is a much better book because of those tougher issues.