Harriet the Spy

Reception

The book appeared on a 1964 list of "The Year's Best Juveniles" in The New York Times Book Review.[5] One 1965 reviewer called the book "a brilliantly written, unsparing realistic story, a superb portrait of an extraordinary child".[6] Another reviewer found that it "captures the feelings, thoughts and situations of a modern city child with remarkable clarity and dimension".[7] Nevertheless, at least one reviewer in 1965 felt that the book dealt with "disagreeable people and situations".[8] Although it was not chosen as one of the American Library Association (ALA) Notable Books for Children for 1964, years later it was included in a retrospective 1960–1964 ALA Notable Books List.[3]

It won a Sequoyah Book Award in 1967.[9] The paperback version was selected as one of the "Best in the Field" published during the previous 16 months in a 1968 New York Times article.[10] In 1995, Paramount Pictures and Nickelodeon Movies claimed that 2.5 million copies of the book had been sold;[11] however, the book did not appear on a 2001 Publishers Weekly list of "hardcovers that have sold 750,000 copies and paperbacks that have topped the one million copy mark."[12]

Whitney Matheson wrote on the USA Today site in 2002 that Harriet "attracts dedicated, lifelong supporters".[13] Anita Silvey in 2004 selected it as one of the 100 best books for children.[14] In 2005, the ex-CIA officer Lindsay Moran cited the Harriet the Spy series of books as an inspiration for her career.[15] It was included in a 2009 list of "Children’s Classics" by The Horn Book Magazine.[16]

In a 2012 online poll of "Top 100 Children's Novels" by School Library Journal, the book ranked 17th.[17] The book was 12th on a 2012 list of "The 50 Best Books for Kids" in Time Out New York Kids.[18]

Despite its popularity, the book has been banned from some schools and libraries "because it was said to set a bad example for children".[4][19][20] Along with Are You There God?, Blubber, and Where the Sidewalk Ends, the book was challenged at a 1983 school board meeting in Xenia, Ohio.[21] Proponents of the Xenia ban stated that the book "teaches children to lie, spy, back-talk and curse", but the board voted to keep the books in the school libraries.[21][22]

Although the book does not state the title character's sexuality, lesbians have identified with Harriet due to her being an "outsider" and due to her dressing like a boy.[4] For example, Harriet wore high-top sneakers, a rarity for girls in the 1960s.[23] Furthermore, Fitzhugh was known to be a lesbian, and the "Boy with the Purple Socks" character in the book may have been gay as the color purple is associated with the gay community.[23] Harriet's friend Sport is also a departure from 1960s gender norms, as he cooks and cleans in addition to taking care of other household tasks due to his absentee mother and stay-at-home father who is consumed with trying to get his novel published.


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