SCBWI's Blueboard - A Message & Chat Board

Harriet Welsch, Spy

Discussion started on

I'm preparing a presentation around the topic of friendship in classic middle-grade novels. The theme is that winning middle grade characters are people kids want to be friends with. Harriet is beloved by millions, including me, but it's hard to grasp at what's lovable about her. She's snide and judgmental but at least she's _____. What would you put in that _____?

I appreciate that a huge part of why this book is a classic is because it has a level of frankness and verisimilitude about childhood that was rare at the time. Harriet is a real kid, and a fascinating one, plain and simple. But she continues to be a hit now that there's a lot more competition, and kids still relate to her even though she's pre-cable, pre-video-game, etc., and lives in a rich neighborhood in NYC and has a nanny and is otherwise somebody most kids wouldn't be able to relate to, but they do anyway, still.
#1 - April 17, 2011, 12:53 PM

Poster Plus
  • *
  • SCBWI Member
  • SCBWI Region westcentny
Acerbic. She says thing that most of us would not dare to say. That's always entertaining. We are just glad she is not saying anything about us.
#2 - April 17, 2011, 06:05 PM
Heinemann, Fall 2013

Poster Plus
  • *
  • SCBWI Member
  • SCBWI Region australiawest
It's years since I read the book so I'm not sure about this, but I think I connected with the vulnerability that lay under that exterior. Yes, she's snide and all of that but perhaps that's masking insecurity, a sense of herself as an outsider, a desire to fit in while at the same time feeling kind of different and above that desire? I don't think it's necessarily - 'she's *this* and *that* but at least also *this*' as much as it's perhaps 'she's *this* and *that* but it's because of *this* and don't we all feel that way sometimes?'. Like I said, it's been many many years, but that's what I recall feeling about Harriet.
#3 - April 17, 2011, 11:10 PM

Yes, I agree with MegM, I think it has to do with Harriet's vulnerability. She may have a wealthy family, but her parents are hardly ever around, and I believe her nanny has just left employment, so she's feeling very lonely.

Perhaps it's something about that age, too--trying to be smart and not care what anyone thinks about you, but inside feeling like a wreck. When I read that book, I saw myself. Plus she wants to be a writer!
#4 - April 18, 2011, 01:18 AM

Poster Plus
  • *
  • SCBWI Member
  • SCBWI Region indiana
I think when you read Harriet The Spy you often relate to what she does because she says, writes and does what you would want to do as a kid her age.  She is a "spy."  She has a spy outfit, which as we all used to have to do is change clothes when we got home from school, I always loved the belt she put on with the binoculars, (memory fade) her notebook and pencils.  She climbs up on boxes and looks into windows, she ventures into places that most of us at that age would not have gone.  She even spies on her best friend. 

She notices everything about everyone.  She tries to remember what Ole Golly taught her to do and tires to do it, even to the point of challenging the teacher about the class newspaper. 

She is adventurous, daring, and vulnerable. 

You love reading about all her adventures until someone begins to read her notebook and her personal writings.  You want to melt into the ground and hide yourself from everyone in her class with her. 

She is someone that you can identify with because she is not perfect.

Are you wearing purple socks?
#5 - April 18, 2011, 12:51 PM
You must do the things you think you cannot do.  Eleanor Roosevelt

I agree with all of that, and that her scribblings about Sport are very caring, she is less mean to him though prescient and observant. If Sport wasn't in it or her notebook entries were less sensitive I think she'd come across very different.
#6 - April 18, 2011, 01:10 PM

Poster Plus
  • *
  • SCBWI Member
  • SCBWI Region newengland
I love Harriet because she is so completely her own person, and not afraid to be who she is.  As a timid, dreamy, bookloving 4th grader, I admired that hugely and longed to be my own person too.

Harriet the Spy is why I became a writer.
#7 - April 18, 2011, 01:16 PM
The Leland Sisters series: Courtship and Curses, Bewitching Season, Betraying Season (Holt BYR/Macmillan)


I think Harriet might be resentful that you failed to use her middle initial. That's Harriet M. Welch to you. And Marissa, me too.
#8 - April 19, 2011, 12:19 PM


0 Members and 1 Guest are viewing this topic.