Harriet the Spy Turns 50!

After surviving early library bans; continues to inspire critical thinking, writing and observation skills in children. 

Now through November 30, 2014, the Eric Carle Museum in Amherst invites you to a special exhibition celebrating the 50th anniversary of author and illustrator Louise Fitzhugh’s 1964 book Harriet the Spy.  The exhibition will feature a selection of original drawings from both Harriet the Spy and its sequel, The Long Secret.  Eleven year old Harriet, the only child of wealthy New York socialites, wants to be a writer, and spends her afternoons secretly observing her friends and neighbors and recording her observations in a notebook.  The book helps readers explore themes of class, gender, and friendship in the 1960’s.

Harriet the Spy is now widely regarded as a classic children’s story – even more well-known and well-loved following its reincarnation as the 1996 film of the same name starring a young Michelle Trachtenberg – but, interestingly enough, when the book was first published in the mid-sixties, it received a good deal of controversy and was even banned by some libraries!  Compared with other children’s and young adult book characters at the time, Fitzhugh’s curious, independent, impatient, and tomboyish young protagonist challenged dominant social ideas about how children, girls in particular, could and should behave.  Many reviewers have since noted, though, that it is precisely Harriet’s fierce independence and desire to understand other people through observation that endears her to readers of all ages.  Her “bad” behavior is relatable, and a refreshingly honest portrayal of childhood, while her struggle to stay true to herself and her ideas in a world that doesn’t understand or appreciate deviance from the norm resonates deeply with readers on their own path to self-discovery. Read the rest of this entry »

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