Banned Books Week Staff Favorites: Harriet the Spy

This week, in honor of Banned Books Week, we’re sharing some of our favorite banned or challenged children’s and young adult books.  Check back every day for a new favorite!  Want to share some of your favorites?  Check out these lists and share in the comments!

harriet the spyHarriet, the Spy was one of my favorite books growing up.  I loved that Harriet was fearless, because I was afraid of everything.  I loved that Harriet was sneaky, because I always tried my best to follow the rules.   She was brash, rude, and stubborn, and this was a revelation to a kid that always tried to please.  Harriet was an escape for me.   When I read (and re-read) the book, I always felt like I was living in Manhattan, writing in my secret notebook, and being looked after by Ole Golly.

My childhood reasons for loving Louise Fitzhugh’s 1964 novel are the same as the rationale for challenging and banning the book.  Harriet was a bad role model, and “didn’t spy, but rather gossiped, slandered, and hurt other people without feeling sorry about her actions.

But that seems to imply that young people cannot take lessons from a book character’s less than noble actions.  Through Harriet, I could see the consequences of gossiping, without having to participate.  I could see that sneaking may be fun, but could also get people that I care about into trouble.  I learned that it is great to be fearless, but it is important to think about how my actions effect other people.  Fitzhugh may not have created a great role model, but she created a protagonist that allowed me (and countless other children over the last 50 years) to learn from her mistakes, even if Harriet didn’t.




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