This web site is a biography of the book, Harriet the Spy. It was composed for a course on the History of the Book at the University of British Columbia in the fall of 2010.

To see footnotes, mouse over the word “footnote” wherever it appears. If you are interested in a particular issue, tags can be used to find material scattered on different pages. Images can be clicked on for enlargement. Sources appear at the bottom of each page, in the order they are mentioned in the text, and are collected on the sources page.

The stories on the blog (this web site’s front page) were collected from published sources and the web (noted in the posting itself), and from friends, and their friends. If no citation or link appears, it means that story was sent to me privately. Grateful thanks are due and gladly extended to those who shared their “Harriet” stories with me, including the four friends who trudged around the Upper East Side of New York with me on a chilly day in the fall of 2001, walking in Harriet’s footsteps and drinking egg creams. Particular among them is my partner and in-house tech consultant, Winnifred Tovey, who makes the stuff work when it doesn’t want to.

Faith Jones
November 2010

3 Responses to About

  1. Mark Crees says:

    Thanks for your website, which is very informative and full. I’m a big fan of Harriet, although the book is not greatly known in the UK. At present, I reading it to my daughter and having a great time at time with it. I hope it might encourage her to write and value her own thoughts and face up to difficult situations and sticky moments. Above all, I think it is a book which makes you struggle with yourself. Salinger for children, if you like. A few things stick in my mind. I teach English and once included this book on a course of children’s literature I once taught to teacher-trainers. I was horrified to discover that some UK editions of Harriet had been ‘Anglified’ with many American terms and colloquialisms (‘sidewalk’, for example) substituted with dull English counterparts. I can’t imagine Louise Fitzhugh agreeing to this. Secondly, I am amazed by the quality of the illustrations. Fitzhugh has a real mastery of line which is completely in keeping with the feeling and humour of her writing. I have found a couple of paperback copies of Nobodies Family and The Long Secret, but neither of these include illustrations. I wonder if you can tell me whether Fitzhugh drew illustrations for these books. Above all, on re-reading the book, I find that Harriet is a work of great humanity and insight. Wonderful, the terrible scene of Ole Golly’s dismissal and departure. And fascinating how Ole Golly herself accepts the change and encourages Harriet to move on from it. Ole Golly also seemed to have known that it was time she moved on and left the household. Both she and Harriet had outgrown the situation. I am also fascinated by the idea that writing is seen as a source of pain and torment in the book, as well as pleasure. I begin to see Harriet as a neurotic character who clings to writing as a way of finding control. And Ole Golly, (who has chosen to play the very tricky role of live-in nanny and mentor in a rich and emotionally incapable family) encourages Harriet to pursue it, a strategy that can only have caused further separation in the family. Fascinating, also, when Harriet’s mother catches her writing, for the first time, and realises how little she knows her own girl. At the same time, Mrs Welsch must have wondered why she decided to employ a nanny in the first place, why did she need to delegate her love to someone else. The tension the book – between being in a family and being in yourself – is an unusual one for a children’s book to pursue. It is more Tolstoy than Tolkein. Thank God. And excuse the essay.

  2. Erica Zwick says:

    Have you read The Little Friend by Donna Tartt?


  3. FJ says:

    I haven’t, but I will now! Thank you for the recommendation.

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