Harriet the Spy

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Harriet the Spy is a children's novel by Louise Fitzhugh published in 1964. It won the Sequoyah Book Award and the New York Times Outstanding Book Award in 1964.

Plot summary

Eleven year old Harriet M. Welsch is an aspiring writer who lives in the Upper East Side of New York City. Encouraged by her nanny, Catherine Golly, Harriet observes others carefully and writes her thoughts down in a notebook as practice for her future career. She follows an afternoon "spy route" which covers her classmates, friends and neighborhood. Her best friends are Sport, a serious-minded boy who lives with his father, and Janie, an aspiring scientist.

One night, when Harriet's parents are at a party, Golly and her boyfriend Mr. Waldenstein take Harriet out for dessert and a movie. When they return home, they find the Welsches have returned early to an empty house. Mrs. Welsch attempts to fire Golly, but Golly declares she is quitting to marry Mr. Waldenstein.

During a game of tag, Harriet loses her notebook. Her classmates find it and are appalled at the things she has written about them. For instance, she compares Sport to "a little old woman" for his continual worrying about his father. The students form a "Spy Catcher Club" in which they think up ways to make Harriet's life miserable, such as stealing her lunch, passing nasty notes about her in class and spilling ink on her. Harriet regularly spies on them through a back fence.

Hurt and lonely, Harriet resolves to get back at her former friends by thinking up a special punishment for each one. After getting into trouble for some of her plans, Harriet tries to resume her friendship with Sport and Janie as if nothing ever happened, but they both reject her. Harriet spends all her time in class writing in her notebook as a part of her plan to punish the Spy Catcher Club. As a result of never doing her schoolwork, her grades suffer, and Harriet's parents confiscate her notebook. Hearing of Harriet's troubles, Ole Golly writes to her, telling her that if anyone ever reads her notebook, "you have to do two things, and you don't like either one of them. 1: You have to apologize. 2: You have to lie. Otherwise you are going to lose a friend."

Meanwhile, dissent is rippling through the Spy Catcher Club. Marion, the teacher's pet, and her best friend Rachel are calling all the shots, and Sport and Janie tired of being bossed around. When they quit the club most of their other classmates do the same.

Harriet's parents speak with her teacher and the headmistress, and Harriet is appointed editor of the class newspaper. The newspaper—featuring stories about the people on Harriet's spy route and the students' parents—becomes an instant success. Harriet also uses the paper to make amends by printing a retraction, and is forgiven.


It was made into a 1996 film of the same name for Nickelodeon starring Michelle Trachtenberg. In March 2010, Disney Channel aired a version of the story, Blog Wars, with Wizards of Waverly Place cast member Jennifer Stone as Harriet, Alexander Conti from Cheaper by the Dozen 2 as Harriet's friend Sport, and Degrassi: The Next Generation's Melinda Shankar as Janie. In November 2010, Stephen Emmett will be working on a new movie version of the book Harriet The Spy: Making New Friends, produced by Will Smith's production company Overbrook Entertainment and released by TriStar Pictures. This will be the only film to be released by TriStar Pictures and produced by Overbrook Entertainment.

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