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Harriet the Spy

Book review by
Stephany Aulenback, Common Sense Media
Harriet the Spy Book Poster Image
Great young sleuth helps kids be true to themselves.
Popular with kids

Parents say

age 11+
Based on 4 reviews

Kids say

age 9+
Based on 11 reviews

A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this book.

Educational Value
Positive Messages

Harriet may act out, but she's coping with loneliness and rejection. Her actions aren't meant to be taken seriously. She spies on her neighbors, going so far as to sneak into their houses. She also takes revenge on her classmates after they reject her. Kids don't take these things seriously, but instead they help kids deal with their own feelings and work through them.

Positive Role Models & Representations

Harriet is a great role model for any child who has dealt with rejection and loneliness. Kids can process their own concerns through Harriet's experience and reactions.


Harriet is upset when her nanny quits, and deeply troubled when her classmates shun her.

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that, even though Harriet is nosy, she thinks a lot of unkind thoughts, and she's also sneaky, stubborn, and is self-absorbed, these very qualities only serve to make her more real and, ultimately, lovable. Kids love her independent thinking and outspoken ways. This is a wonderful story for  kids who have ever felt excluded before -- and that's just about every kid. 

User Reviews

  • Parents say
  • Kids say
Parent of a 4 and 9 year old Written bymichugalug April 10, 2009

Definately not a role model

I don't like the things Harriet says and the way she thinks about people, even saying her own mother his dumb. She refers to people as fat as well. This... Continue reading
Adult Written bymaryum February 6, 2009
Kid, 11 years old December 11, 2010

Great book, but Harriet's a little, mean.

I like this book, but sometimes Harriet is a little nosy, and kind of moody. I think anyone 10 and up will be able to understand why, and not to act that way yo... Continue reading
Teen, 16 years old Written byrrpurple November 16, 2009

Perfect for ages 9-11.

I read this book when I was about 9 or 10. I loved it. I identified with the character. I understand parent's concerns with the book, but kids can understa... Continue reading

What's the story?

Harriet's in trouble when her classmates read about themselves in her secret notebook. When they start a Spy Catchers' Club -- and guess who's not invited to join -- Harriet turns to her nanny for help. Kids might not like the idea of Harriet writing about them, but they'll certainly enjoy reading what she has to say about everybody in her world!


Is it any good?

This book is honest in its portrayal of the desperation and loneliness Harriet feels -- first, when her nanny leaves her and, later, when her friends turn against her. Girls, in particular, will identify with Harriet's strong drive to be true to herself in this longtime children's favorite.

Best of all, while HARRIET THE SPY deals with tough problems, such as how to deal with peer rejection and how to carry on without a beloved friend, it also manages, thanks to author Louise Fitzhugh's keen sense of the ridiculous, to be cheerful and often hilarious. Readers may even be inspired to start keeping their own notebooks -- though they shouldn't be so zealous as she is.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about the benefits of recording your thoughts and observations about the world around you in a journal that's meant for your eyes only. Are there things you'd write down on paper privately that you'd never say in public?

  • If someone did happen to find your notebook and read it, would there be things in it that might hurt other people? How would you explain your actions?

  • What other girl detective stories have you read? Why do you think they're so popular? 

Book details

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