Harriet the Spy

Common Sense Media says

Great young sleuth helps kids be true to themselves.





What parents need to know

Educational value
Not applicable
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

Harriet is a great role 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.

Not applicable
Not applicable
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Drinking, drugs, & smoking
Not applicable

Parents Need to Know

Parents need to know that, even though Harriet is nosey, 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. 

Parents say

Kids say

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?


A children's favorite, especially among girls, for almost 40 years, 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.

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.

Families can talk 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?

Book details

Author:Louise Fitzhugh
Book type:Fiction
Publisher:Yearling Books
Publication date:October 1, 1964
Number of pages:298
Publisher's recommended age(s):9 - 12

This review of Harriet the Spy was written by

About our rating system

  • ON: Content is age-appropriate for kids this age.
  • PAUSE: Know your child; some content may not be right for some kids.
  • OFF: Not age-appropriate for kids this age.
  • NOT FOR KIDS: Not appropriate for kids of any age.

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Learning ratings

  • Best: Really engaging, great learning approach.
  • Very Good: Engaging, good learning approach.
  • Good: Pretty engaging, good learning approach.
  • Fair: Somewhat engaging, okay learning approach.
  • Not for Learning: Not recommended for learning.
  • Not for Kids: Not age-appropriate for kids; not recommended for learning.

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What parents and kids say

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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 is not proper or kind and not accepted in our household.
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 yourself. Besides, who wouldn't be angry if someone read their journal? I think Ole'Golly is a positive romodle in this story. she always looks on the bright side of things, and is very smart.
What other families should know
Great role models
Adult Written bymaryum February 6, 2009


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