Harriet the Spy

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

Parents say

age 11+
Based on 6 reviews

Kids say

age 9+
Based on 11 reviews

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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
Adult Written byMissPiggy November 8, 2019

Soooo much consumerism

Harriet the Spy has soooo much consumerism. It will make kids want a cook, cake and milk after school, and a nursemaid. Don't show it to your kids until th... Continue reading
Adult Written byLongbeard November 8, 2019


It is a good book but if you’re under eight you might think of it in a different way than you should.
Teen, 13 years old Written byMoviegirl700 January 1, 2019

Harriet-not a role model-but a must on your kid's summer reading list!

This book was pretty good-the Nickelodeon movie was true to it. Harriet is a spy, and does figure out everyone else's secrets, and they eventually take rev... Continue reading
Teen, 14 years old Written byMochiWolf May 19, 2018

A cool, funny romp

First off, I can see why this is a classic. It's funny, creative, and well-written. Harriet is a fun, relateable character, as is her (boy)friend Sport. I... 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

  • Author: Louise Fitzhugh
  • Genre: Humor
  • Book type: Fiction
  • Publisher: Yearling Books
  • Publication date: October 1, 1964
  • Publisher's recommended age(s): 9 - 12
  • Number of pages: 298
  • Last updated: January 13, 2020

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