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Harriet the Spy



Last updated Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Author: Louise Fitzhugh
Date of Publication: 2000
ISBN: 0385327838
Grade Level: 4th    (GLCs: Click here for grade level guidelines.)
Date(s) Used: Aug. 2008

Synopsis: From Amazon.com

Thirty-two years before it was made into a movie, Harriet the Spy was a groundbreaking book: its unflinchingly honest portrayal of childhood problems and emotions changed children's literature forever. Happily, it has neither dated nor become obsolete and remains one of the best children's novels ever written. The fascinating story is about an intensely curious and intelligent girl, who literally spies on people and writes about them in her secret notebook, trying to make sense of life's absurdities. When her classmates find her notebook and read her painfully blunt comments about them, Harriet finds herself a lonely outcast. Fitzhugh's writing is astonishingly vivid, real and engaging, and Harriet, by no means a typical, loveable heroine, is one of literature's most unforgettable characters.


Note to readers:
•  Try to read through Chapter 3. Try a new way of keeping the kids engaged in the story by “character mapping”. Place each name of the character on the board as it comes up in the story. For example, in Chapter 1 you would write Harriet, Sport, Ole Golly and Mrs. Golly. As you continue reading the book, add descriptions of the characters (including "also known as...") as Harriet would. Definitions: Snarky–sarcastic and irreverent, usually out of irritation

Discussion topics for before reading:
•  Have you ever seen the Harriet the Spy movie? Did you like it?
•  Do you know which came first, the book or the movie? (the book did)
•  Do you know what a spy is?
•  Do you know any spies? Have you ever spied on someone?
•  Would you like it if someone spied on you?
•  What is Harriet carrying on the cover of the book? How are these items helpful to spies?

Discussion topics for during/after reading:
•  In what city does this story take place? (New York City) Have you ever been there?
•  How is New York City different from Los Angeles? How is it similar?
•  Do you talk about people behind their backs? Would you like it if people talked about you behind your back?
•  Do you think it is important to get to know peopel before you judge them?
•  Do you think Harriet was trying to hurt anyone's feelings, or was she just being honest? Does it matter whether or not she meant to hurt people's feelings or not? (The end result is the same...)
•  What would happen if somebody found her books?

Craft ideas:
•  Make a notebook by stapling pieces of paper together. Cover the notebooks with construction paper. Design the cover and write your ideas/thoughts and positive things about your friends.
•  Make a pair of binoculars using construction paper (use half of a sheet cut length wise) or toilet paper rolls (bring ahead option). Decorate one side of the paper/toilet paper rolls. Glue the rolls together. If using paper, take your sheet, hold landscape view, decorated side down, and fold in half. Put decorated side on table and fold short edges up 1/2 inch. Roll each end to the center and match the folds to the center. Press and hold to secure. Add yarn or string if you want.

*Note: These craft ideas are just suggestions. You can use them, but you don’t have to use them. You can expand upon them, or add your own twist. Remember, though, that the focus of your time should not be on the development and execution of a craft; the focus should be on the read-aloud and the enjoyment of the book!