'Harriet the Spy' celebrates its fiftieth anniversary

The children's novel by Louise Fitzhugh focuses on a young girl who loves to spy on her friends and neighbors. 'Louise Fitzhugh remembered what it was like to grow up and wasn’t afraid to write about it,' author Judy Blume said of the book.

By , Staff Writer

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    The anniversary edition of 'Harriet the Spy' will be released on Feb. 25.
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The childhood sleuth Harriet Welsch appeared on the literary scene 50 years ago and publisher Delacorte will release a 50th anniversary edition of Louise Fitzhugh’s children’s novel “Harriet the Spy” in honor of the occasion.

“Harriet” follows the girl of the same name, an 11-year-old who lives in New York City and loves to observe her friends and neighbors, writing down what she sees in her notebook. However, she finds herself being ostracized by her peers when they find her notebook and read her harsh opinions of them. The anniversary edition will be released on Feb. 25.

Fitzhugh released two other novels set in Harriet’s world, one, titled “The Long Secret,” in 1965, and another, “Sport,” which focused on Harriet’s best friend, in 1979. “Sport” was released after Fitzhugh’s death. “Harriet” was also adapted into a film starring Michelle Trachtenberg and Rosie O’Donnell in 1996.

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Beth Horowitz, vice-president and publisher of Delacorte Press, edited the anniversary edition of “Harriet” and recalled that some critics were shocked at the time by Harriet’s rowdy behavior.

“A lot of people at the time were horrified that this girl threw a shoe at her father, had a tantrum, and didn’t want to apologize for all the things that I believe make her so interesting and honest – and a real individual,” Horowitz told Publishers Weekly. “Of course a lot of reviewers loved the novel and instantly got it, but there was certainly some negativity, mostly about the fact that Harriet wasn’t a good little girl.”

The new edition of the book will have a letter from Fitzhugh’s editor to the author that she wrote when “Harriet” was first released, writings on the book by 14 children’s book industry staff, and a map of the path Harriet takes to spy on people.

Author Judy Blume’s recollections about the book are some of the ones included in the anniversary copy.

“Finding Harriet as a young writer in the mid-1960s was inspiring,” Blume told PW. “It meant I wasn’t the only one who wanted to tell stories about kids who were real. Louise Fitzhugh remembered what it was like to grow up and wasn’t afraid to write about it. She was one of the authors who most inspired me, who continues to inspire me.”

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