Louise Fitzhugh

Louise Fitzhugh’s 1964 novel Harriet the Spy introduced readers to a new type of children’s book: a post-Dick and Jane story where everybody, including the heroine, was pretty screwed up. Everything in Harriet’s world is portrayed with a clear and unsentimental eye, by both the author and in Harriet’s disastrously honest spy notebook. Harriet herself--insatiably curious, massively stubborn--might not be everybody’s money (my mother, for example, can’t stand her, and once said that the book would be fine if only Harriet weren’t in it), but she is vividly real, and the power of her character is strong enough to carry readers through some very strange adventures.

Note: Along with a handful of children’s books and the three Harriet stories (The Long Secret and Sport both feature characters from Harriet the Spy), Ms. Fitzhugh also illustrated the original Suzuki Beane, a beatnik parody of Kay Thompson’s Eloise books, and wrote a teenage lesbian love story that her agent refused to publish. That manuscript, called Amelia, has since been lost.

As usual, the movie. Why do people so frequently make such bland film adaptations of children’s books? If we didn’t like Harriet the Spy’s sharper, darker moments, it wouldn’t be such an enduring success.


Other Recommendations:
From the Mixed-up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler, by E. L. Konigsburg

Flipped and the Sammy Keyes series, by Wendelin Van Draanen

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Posted by: Julia


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