Harriet the Spy

Harriet the Spy Study Guide

Harriet The Spy is a children's novel written and illustrated by Louise Fitzhugh. Published in 1964, it was an immediate hit and has been called a classic, appearing on three national lists of the best children's novels of all time.

The novel tells the story of Harriet M. Welsch, a precocious 11-year-old who writes down her observations about her friends in her notebook. These observations are not always kind, and when her friends find her notebook and read it they are hurt and angry. They ostracize Harriet and look for ways to get back at her. With its sharp portrayal of childhood interpersonal politics, the book was critically acclaimed, but it was also banned from many schools and libraries because it was felt that the characters were all disagreeable and that it would set a bad example for children, teaching them to bully, lie, talk back and curse.

Although Harriet's sexual identity is never stated, lesbians have strongly identified with her character, due to her being an outsider and dressing like a boy, which was not common in 1964. This identification might be more with the creator of the character than with the character herself, as Louise Fitzhugh was a lesbian and gender rights advocate.