Friday, February 12, 2010

Harriet the Spy (audio book/movie)

Harriet loves to write in her notebook.  She takes notes on anything that she sees and writes down all her thoughts.  But when her notebook is read by her class and they see some of the things she thinks about them, they decided to start a Spycatcher's Club.

I read Harriet the Spy along time ago and, though, I thought it was good, it was never one of my re-reads as a kid.  There are so many elements that made me uncomfortable that I could never bring myself to read it again.  Some of that still hits home as an adult.  When I was a kid, I also felt sorry for Harriet.  Her classmates read something that was private and made her miserable and they turned on her so quickly without giving her a chance to explain.  They played mean tricks on her.  And she is so sad after the loss of her nurse, Ole Golly, which adds to her general misery after being ostracized at school.  So I could never stand to read about her depression.

As an adult, I see all of that and I still feel sorry for Harriet.  Because she really was depressed. But the thing I wonder about are the adults of the story, specifically Harriet's parents and Ole Golly.  I really wonder if they thought Ole Golly could leave and Harriet would just move on.  I'm assuming that Ole Golly did most of the caretaking and so it would be like your mother just one day saying Bye.  Have a nice life.  I mean I know Golly loved her and was sad to go.  I can see more of that now that I'm older.  But Harriet is not the most mature or introspective child and so she couldn't recognize the depression that followed Golly leaving.  And the adults really did nothing to help that.   And then to add to Harriet's misery her friends find her notebook and turn on her.  They really don't do too much to her, but then ignoring her I think is the worst.  Harriet though cannot understand why they are mad and if she would have just ask an adult I think they could have explained it to her.  Also her parents take away her notebook which was the worst decision they could have made.  I was glad when they finally took her to a psychologist because she really should have gone much earlier.

Harriet as a character is funny and insightful and brutally honest but she is also a pain in the neck and shouts too much and is very sassy.  In other words, she is very much like a lot of 11 year olds.  I think she was a good friend to Janie and Sport and out of all of the kids those two should have given her a chance to explain.  But then, I guess, when your best friend says mean things about you, you would take it the hardest.  Though someone needs to explain to the children that we all have uncharitable thoughts about others at one time or another.  Harriet just make the mistake of writing them down.

In 1996, Nickoledeon made a movie starring Michelle Trachtenberg as Harriet and Rosie O'Donnell as Ole Golly.  And I sat down to watch it after listening to the book. This is a fairly accurate and a good represenatation of the book.  There are a few chances here and there, the biggest being that after Harriet's friends start their club and spill paint on her (instead of ink) she gets back at them in various ways like posting an embarrassing picture of Sport and messing up one of Janie's experiments.  She does some mean stuff in the book, but not quite like in the movie.  And Golly comes back instead of just writing to her.  But the tone is right and Michelle Trachtenberg does such an excellent job of protraying Harriet.

Side note: I've heard that Disney is doing a new verison with Jennifer Stone from Wizards of Waverly Place and I just cannot fanthom that.  She is way too old to play Harriet and I think it is going to be awful.


  1. I want to read this one for Shelf Discovery! I don't remember much about it which makes me wonder if I ever read it!

    Insightful review!

  2. This one's on my Shelf Discovery list too. I never read it as a kid.

    Jennifer Stone, seriously? She's like... at least 17? Isn't Harriet like 11 or something?

  3. I've never read this one! I believe I started it once but for the same reasons you said I couldn't read it - made me too uncomfortable.

  4. Harriet the Spy was one of my favorite books when I was a kid, but when I read it to my two sons a few years back, they had a different perspective on it. They both thought Harriet was mean to write things in her notebook about her friends and classmates (my boys are both very caring, sweet kids - apparently far more so than I was at their age!). I can see their point now that I've read it as an adult.

    I've never seen the movie, but I totally agree on the upcoming Disney movie. We loved Jennifer Stone as narrator of the audio book Freaky Monday (I reviewed it at my blog), but she is definitely a teen - I can't see her playing Harriet at all.


  5. My daughter and I just finished this one. I should rent the Nickelodeon movie.


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