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A Fuse #8 Production
Inside A Fuse #8 Production

Top 100 Children’s Novels (#16)

Harriet the Spy by Louise Fitzhugh (1964)
(#1)(#1)(#2)(#2)(#2)(#2)(#3) (#3)(#3)(#3)(#3)(#4)(#4) (#4)(#5)(#5)(#5)(#6)(#6)(#6) (#7)(#7)(#8)(#8)(#9)(#9)(#9) (#9)(#9)(#10)(#10)(#10) – 177 points

The dumbwaiter. Ole Golly. The boy with the purple socks. And, and, and… Someone on Facebook said this week that Harriet the Spy was her Catcher in the Rye. Mine, too. – Els Kushner

Harriet’s family wasn’t anything like mine, but I still recognized her as a kindred spirit when I was a kid. She was curious about things, and she didn’t know when to stop. I loved following her around as she found her way into people’s lives and wrote about what she saw. My heart broke when the other kids turned on her, especially when they created a Harriet-hating club—every child’s worst fear taken to an extreme. How real that bath felt to me after she ran home, covered with ink! And yet, she survived. I figured maybe I could, too. I still write in notebooks. – Kate Coombs at (Book Aunt)

Confession: I haven’t read this book since I was a kid. And yet, I still can remember reading it. I can remember the way it made me feel empowered (me a geeky, shy girl always on the fringe of the classroom). I can remember wanting to be as brave, as reckless as Harriet. Another book that was so battered from rereads that it didn’t make it past high school. – Melissa Fox (Book Nut)

WHY? Because it is my favorite book ever written. Because I felt like Harriet a lot of the time and because I know that many of you do, too. Because every time I read it I am impressed at its utter subversive nature. – Walter M. Mayes

Harriet made me want to write everything down, and once I did, I then fretted over who would find my notebook and how I might be tortured if my "real" feelings were discovered. – Dr. Patricia M. Stohr-Hunt, Chair, Education Department, University of Richmond

Heart, heart, heart. This might have been why I became a journalist.Madelyn Rosenberg

The kid emotions and interactions are perfect. Plus, who didn’t read this and then go around with a black composition notebook writing about people? Wait. I still do that. Huh.Jacqui Robbins

"Harriet, you are going to have to do two things, and you don’t like either one of them: 1) You have to apologize. 2) You have to lie . . . But to yourself you must always tell the truth."

I probably should have cut down the testimonials more than I did, but they just seemed so heartfelt that I just couldn’t do it.

Any summaries I find of this book tend to sound a little trite, so I guess I go with the one on the book itself. "Harriet M. Welsch is a spy. She’s staked out a spy route, and she writes down everything about everyone she sees – including her classmates and her best friends – in her notebook. ‘I bet the lady with the cross-eye looks in the mirror and feels just terrible.’ ‘Pinky Whitehead will never change. Does his mother hate him? If I had him I’d hate him.’ Then Harriet loses track of her notebook, and it ends up in the wrong hands. Before Harriet can stop them, her friends have read the always truthful, sometimes awful things she’s written about each of them. Will Harriet find a way to put her life and her friendships back together?"

You can get quite a bit of backstory on Harriet the Spy from the letters of her editor Ursula Nordstrom. In Leonard Marcus’s Dear Genius: The Letters of Ursula Nordstrom we learn that "Prior to the publication of Harriet, LF [Louise Fitzhugh] had been known as the illustrator of a send-up of Eloise called Suzuki Beane, by Sandra Scopperttone." I have searched in vain to see a copy of Suzuki Beane for years, by the way. Apparently there is a copy lurking within my library. Someday I shall request it and see what all the fuss was about.

In a letter to Charlotte Zolotow, Nordstrom mentioned the beginnings of Harriet the Spy in this way. "Anyhow, if you hadn’t called my attention to that Fitzhugh unpublishable picture book we would never have drawn Harriet the Spy out of Louise." She related the full story of Louise’s life and writing in a later letter to Joan Robbins. You see Zolotow, then a senior editor at Harper, had showed Nordstrom some sample pages from Fitzhugh of what would become Harriet’s words about her classmates. So they brought in Louise to explain to her what they wanted the book to be. "Louise sat sullenly, hands jammed into her pockets, while we expressed enthusiasm over what we’d seen . . . After at least an hour she looked up and said, ‘So you’re not really interested, are you?’ We almost died."  Eventually they persuaded her to expand the text, she did, and it was a hit.

Controversy city when this book came out though, folks. According to Dear Genius, "A group of librarians from Miami, Florida had written to say they had found Harriet ‘completely unchildlike’ and "more suitable for a New Yorker piece than a children’s book." George Woods of the Times wouldn’t even give it to his children.  Even today you can look at the comments from parents on Common Sense Media or Amazon and note their horror that Harriet is not an obedient, perfect child.

In American Writers for Children Since 1960: Fiction, the point of Harriet the Spy is summed up quite neatly. "What Harriet learns is the difference between writing and mere spying, between a social act and a self-indulgent one. The difference is not in what she does or who she is, but in her reasons for doing what comes so naturally and uncontrollably."  I love that distinction.

In Everything I Need to Know I Learned in a Children’s Book, Dr. Perri Klass (who teaches pediatrics and journalism at NYU) also pinpoints what it is about the book that makes it as good as it is. "The most important lesson of Harriet the Spy . . . is a message about the intoxicating and addictive joys of observation, of looking at the people across from you on the bus, or sitting next to you at the coffee shop counter, or ahead of you in line, and noting down the details of appearance and clothing and gesture – of listening in on their conversations (of course) – of trying to figure out their family dynamics and their back story. That’s what Harriet did with her spy route and her spy notebook – she worked on figuring out the world and its stories. She did it because she was driven to do it; she did it because she had figured out how much fun it was; she did it because it was her way of operating in the world and making it her own."

But perhaps the best, and certainly my favorite, article on Louise Fitzhugh and Harriet was the January/February 2005 article in Horn Book by K.T. Horning called "On Spies and Purple Socks and Such". Ms. Horning recalls what it was to grow up gay and to have no role models, until she met Harriet Welsch. She was astonished by the book, but one aspect in particular. ".. the thing that shocked me the most about Harriet was her cross-dressing. It’s an aspect of the novel that girls today would miss entirely (thank goodness!), but in 1965 Harriet’s spy clothes struck me as revolutionary. Back then, girls in blue jeans and hooded sweatshirts were uncommon, though not unheard of. But Harriet’s high-top sneakers were solely boys’ wear. I know for sure, because I used to beg my otherwise indulgent, liberal parents for them, and they refused, although they bought them regularly for my brothers." Horning goes on to explain why this book was so revolutionary for her and other queer kids of the time period. If you’re going to know your Harriet the Spy, I’d pretty much call this required reading.

There were two real sequels, of a sort, and several fake sequels, of a sort. The real sequels written by Ms. Fitzhugh were The Long Secret (maybe the best known period book for kids today) and Sport. The fake sequels include Harriet the Spy, Double Agent by Maya Gold and Harriet Spies Again by Helen Ericson. There may be more faux Harriet out there, but those are the two that come most immediately to mind.

Harriet won no awards, with the possible exception of the Sequoyah Book Award and the New York Times Outstanding Book Award in 1964. In fact, in 1965 the Newbery Award winner was Shadow of a Bull by Maia Wojciechowska. The Honor book was Across Five Aprils by Irene Hunt. Perfectly fine books, but they were clearly no Harriet the Spy.

  • Can you really claim to love a book unless you tattoo it on your body?

The Chicago Tribune said it was, "[A] superb portrait of an extraordinary child."

Said School Library Journal, "Harriet the Spy bursts with life."

A lot more covers out there than I remembered.  These were just the ones I could get big enough scans of:

In 1996 Nickelodeon made a filmed version with Michelle Trachtenberg (she’ll always be Dawn from Buffy the Vampire Slayer to me) as Harriet and Rosie O’Donnell as Oh Golly. Though I was incensed by the fact that Harriet was now without glasses, I didn’t mind the film at the time. I do wonder how I’d view it now.

More recently there was . . . oh, you can just see it here.  That growly noise you keep hearing coming up from the earth is the sound of Louise Fitzhugh rolling, multiple consecutive times, over in her grave.

About Elizabeth Bird

Elizabeth Bird is currently the Collection Development Manager of the Evanston Public Library system and a former Materials Specialist for New York Public Library. She has served on Newbery, written for Horn Book, and has done other lovely little things that she'd love to tell you about but that she's sure you'd find more interesting to hear of in person. Her opinions are her own and do not reflect those of EPL, SLJ, or any of the other acronyms you might be able to name. Follow her on Twitter: @fuseeight.


  1. One of my favorite parts was when she was rehearsing to play an onion in the Thanksgiving play, she has no idea how to play an onion (who would?), and her father says that according to Stanislavsky she has to feel like an onion, and he tries it but says he’s getting there but only got to scallion.

  2. Ed Spicer says

    OK! Well another one of my top ten predictions bites the dust. Hmm??????? Which two books do I put in their places? Betsy, any suggestions?

  3. Ditto Ed, i guess we have to make room for Diary of a Wimpy Kid in our top tens….Do we need room for Dog Days and The Last Straw too?

  4. I didn’t know about this countdown in time to vote, but I was thinking about my top ten list recently and decided that Harriet was definitely #2 on my list. Oh Harriet, how I loved you growing up! I can’t remember how many times I decided I wanted to spy and keep notebooks, but always failed miserably. After seeing what happened to Harriet, perhaps it was a good thing I wasn’t successful.

    I must have read this book at least once a month for year on end, until my copy fell apart. After seeing this, I think it may be time to buy a new copy. The Long Secret isn’t bad either – but it’s no Harriet.

  5. I chuckled and was delighted to see Harriet on the list. Just want to share a bit of NYC Kid Lit trivia. A few years ago, as chair of the Friends of Libraries USA Literary Landmark (FOLUSA) Committee, I approached the Chapin School on NYC Eastside to received a Literary Landmark plaque. The school has long been identified as the model for the Gregory School in Harriet the Spy. They refused because they didn’t want tourists hanging out by their door and maybe because of the subversive nature of the book.

  6. Jennifer Schultz says

    Oh, dirty darn, as Hayley Mills said. I already sent my top 10 predictions (was worried I would forget), and this was on it. Oh, well!

  7. Rachael V. says

    Only #16? Horrors!

    I guess this means House With a Clock in Its Walls will not be making an appearance. Sorry, weird beard!

  8. I can’t believe Harriet didn’t make it into the top 10!

  9. I’m surprised not to see Harriet in the top ten. But even more surprising to me, as we get closer to the top, is the absence of horse stories. Where are all the formerly-10-year-old-girls (and boys)-who-were-crazy-about-horses?? Was that a 1950s phenomenon (or 1970s as it was for my daughter)? We agonized over whether to vote for Black Beauty, Black Stallion, Misty, or King of the Wind … were we the only ones – or will they still show up?

  10. rockinlibrarian says

    I empathize with all you whose Top Tens are now all messed up. Me, I have a list of 15 remaining books and absolutely NO CLUE what order they should go in. I have a few I thought are the ones that are huge enough that they must be high on the list, but I think they’re not as big as they once were, so suspected they’ve dropped below ten now… except Harriet was NOT one I suspected of dropping below that top 10! Putting these in ORDER… even crazier!

    Connie — I personally hate horse books, but I always thought I was weird for that. Still, not weird enough that I can see any of those titles making the list NOW…

  11. I’m so glad to see Ursula Nordstrom mentioned in this post. I was just saying to someone the other day that it would be fascinating to note, once the poll is done, how many of the authors/books on the list were mentored/midwifed by Nordstrom. I figured this one would be here.

  12. Totally check out Suzuki Beane! I want to see in back in print so baddly! (Maybe as a YA title because I think that age would really get the wry humor and beatnik vibe, but the story is ultimately very sweet.)

  13. Oh my poor choices. Half of them are so not making the list.

    Eric, any chance of a future analysis/statistics post including a genre breakdown? Having nominated 8 or 9 SF/F titles (depending on how you count When You Reach Me) and watching more than half of them be beaten by all sorts of historical and realistic fiction, I’d be interested in seeing the breakdown.

  14. Mr. Grumpy says

    Say it ain’t so Joe–say it ain’t so.

    15 spots left.
    Minus 3 remaining Potters = 12 spots left.
    Minus 2 Wimpy Kids (maybe more) = 10 spots left.

    It will be a travesty if we don’t see Jim Hawkins (Treasure Island), Bilbo Baggins (The Hobbit), or Tom Sawyer.

    No Mark Twain–No Robert Louis Stevenson–No JRR Tolkien–are you kidding me!

    Getting beat out by–a cartoon stick figure–a pair of ballet shoes–and a book that, “rhapsodizes about the wearing of a sanitary napkin”.

    UGGGH! We’re all going to hell!

    Mr. Grumpy 🙂

  15. Miriam – Genre break down is indeed on its way as well as publisher breakdown and updates on all the previous ones too.

    I would love to see a breakdown by editor but the research involved in figuring out who edited all these titles is way beyond me.

    I really don’t think we’ll see 2 wimpy kids so hobbit should be safe. But since we know more kids voted in the poll than males, I could be mistaken.

  16. Yay! Thanks, Eric!

    Mr. Grumpy, I’m not sure I’d consider the three books whose absence you bemoan to be “children’s books.” Appropriate for children, certainly, but that doesn’t automatically mean they have special resonance for children. There’s nothing particularly child-like about the Hobbit; it’s a good, accessible fantasy story, but that doesn’t make it a children’s book. Huck Finn and Tom Sawyer strike me as more in the “speaking to childhood” camp than the “speaking to children” camp—and books that speak to childhood are often best read by adults looking back, though again, there’s nothing wrong with kids reading them. I haven’t read Treasure Island, so I can’t comment specifically on that one.

  17. My Boaz's Ruth says

    Hobbit is more of a children’s book than Golden Compass or Lightning Thief — and both of those are already on the list. However, unlike Thief, it is in NOT in Children’s SF and Fantasy and that may be the problem.

    I don’t expect to see 3 more Potters — Fuse #8 promises us no series had ALL their members on the list. I hope not to see more than 1.

    I agree that Huck Finn and Tom Sawyer are not generally liked by children to the point I would expect to see them on this list, though they are classics. Treasure Island? Don’t know.

  18. Genevieve says

    I really don’t think we’re going to see Harry Potter #6 here at this point (how many people have you ever heard say it was one of their favorites?), so there are likely two HPs remaining. Possibly one Wimpy Kid, possibly not at all (my son ate those books up, but he didn’t think it would make it above Percy Jackson or in the top 15 – now he’s waiting to see if he was right). And I agree with Miriam that two of the three books Mr. Grumpy mentioned may not really be “children’s books.” The Hobbit, on the other hand, specifically speaks to the child reader – Tolkein wrote it for his children, and the narrator says the kinds of things you find in a kids’ book:

    “In a hole in the ground lived a hobbit. Not a nasty, dirty, wet hole, filled with the ends of worms and an oozy smell, not yet a dry, bare, sandy hole with nothing in it to sit down on or to eat: it was a hobbit-hole, and that means comfort.”

    “There was a most special greedy, strong and wicked worm called Smaug.”

  19. David Ziegler says

    I’m a bit surprised too at the lack of horse books.

    I’m certainly rooting for Hobbit, and Treasure Island – which created so many Pirate stereotyppes – X marks the spot, a peglegged pirate, etc… – but Treasure Island may not make it. I read and liked Tom Sawyer as a child, but I liked that type of book and don’t expect to see it, though I hope I’m wrong.

    As always Betsy, great job!

  20. Carl in Charlotte says

    I know several boys who read Treasure Island recently and liked it but they were older, about 12 or so. It was my #1 choice and I’d hate to miss it. I firmly believe The Hobbit still sopeaks to kids. Our 9-year-old daughter read it for the first time recently and it was all she could talk about.

  21. Maybe horse lovers don’t do blogs?

  22. Mr. Grumpy says

    Ms. Miriam,
    Yes, I take your point.

    Not to be redundant, but the book “Tom Sawyer” is much more accessible, agewise, than the longer and more inaccessible “Huckleberry Finn”.
    By the same token “The Hobbit” agewise is more accessible than the actual “Lord of the Rings Trilogy”.
    And although you can undoubtedly find a copy of “Treasure Island” stocked in the classics children’s section in every Barnes and Noble, I’m not sure how much they’re read today.

    But these three books aren’t really that different the following books already chosen:
    “The Golden Compass”, “Inkheart”, “The City of Ember”, “The Thief”, “The Book of Three”, and “The High King”.

    And as far as the “speaking to childhood” vs. “speaking to children” camp I would contend that all the Richard Peck books, including the listed “A Long Way from Chicago” is more adult oriented than any of my three choices. And over in the “Battle of the Books” Peck’s “Season of Gifts” can be tagged with the same issue.

    So in NCAA parlance–We’re down to the SWEET 15.
    This is where we que Dick Vitale to scream–YEAH BABY!

    So, I’m racking my brain on what will make the top 15. I would think the following would certainly be there:

    “Charlotte’s Web”.
    “Wrinkle in Time”.
    “Narnia: Witch in the Wardrobe”.
    “Harry Potters (3 remaining)”.
    Maybe “The Secret Garden” (ugh again!!!)
    Since a “Percy Jackson” is already on the list a “Wimpy Kid” is sure to follow.

    We’ve already seen a Nancy Drew.

    So where’s my Hardy Boys: “House on the Cliff” and “Tower Treasure”?
    Dream on–Mr. Grump–dream on. 🙂

  23. Well, not all Betsy’s readers/voters are bloggers and I, though a young girl once upon a time, was never into the horse books.

    I did include, when I submitted my choices for the count, that I would cry and cry if HP made the top 10 and it looks like I’ll have to have my tissue ready. I had not thought there would be a chance of Wimpy Kid making it, whoo boy.

    I’ll have to become Ms. Grumpy (and Depressed), but I can’t say it’s just the “kids” who voted that are causing my depression. When I read one of the comments here from someone at about the #30-35 or so who said it was the FIRST DAY that he or she had read all five of titles to make the list, no wonder some of these titles have made it this high.

    Still, overall some great books among these. Thanks to Betsy for the hard work and to give me something to look forward to and obsess about.

  24. I’m glad I haven’t submitted my top 10 yet, because I was sure Harriet was a shoe-in! But I hadn’t thought at all about Wimpy Kid, and I think I will be dismayed to see it in the top 10 if it does show up. I’m not even sure about the remaining Harry Potters. Maybe the first one?

    Ugh, I am never going to decide on a top 10 at this rate! And the lack of horse books is so weird. I feel like I was the only kid I knew who didn’t like horses growing up.

  25. Mr. Grumpy says

    Ms. Jan B.

    I’m confused. If HP makes the top 10 are your tears, tears of joy, or tears of sorrow?

    And even though I am a guy, as far as seeing a Wimpy Kid, I (like you) use the words of Grandma Dawdel…”whooo boy”.

    PS. If you’re serious about becoming Ms. Grumpy…I have only one thing to say:
    It’s six o’clock–I’m hungry–so where’s my dinner. 🙂

  26. RM1(SS) (ret) says

    Another one I don’t think I’ve read, though I do remember picking it up and looking at it a few times long, long ago (ie, when it was less than a decade old). So far in the top twenty we’ve been alternating books I’ve read (odd numbers) with those I haven’t (even numbers), so I’m looking forward to number 15. 8)

    I expect to see Azkaban and Philosopher’s/Sorcerer’s Stone, but not Deathly Hallows, so that leaves room for 13 non-Potters. If there are any horse stories to come, I would expect Misty or the Black Stallion, but I thought at least one of Kjelgaard’s dog stories would make the list…. I’ll agree that Charlotte’s Web and TLtW&tW are probably in the top ten. As for Wimpy Kid, my 12-year-old loves them, but as far as I know her sister (14) has never touched them, so I don’t know.

    Onward to tomorrow!

  27. Jan B, that was me, and it was the day with numbers 26-30 that I’d first read all five books (there had been many four-book days)—but my only votes have showed up at numbers 39 and 45, so I don’t think you can blame me for the titles that have made it this high.

    And I feel no shame over having previously read on 62% of the books on this list (so far, and I expect it to creep up a little over the last 15 titles). I was a voracious reader as a kid, but I was fickle—and I’m not convinced that’s a bad thing. I missed out on some great books, but I read a lot of fantastic ones, and a lot that may not have been great books but reinforced my love of reading… something that may not have happened if instead I’d been forced to read “better” books in which I wasn’t really interested.

    So now as an adult this list is giving me a bunch of kid’s books to add to my to-read list: great! And so in the future I may be exploring some children’s classics/favorites for the first time as I read them to/with my (as yet nonexistent) kids/nieces/nephews/children-of-friends: great!

  28. Genevieve says

    I’ll be grumpy for a minute – it does make me grumble when people feel a need to say how rotten they think a book is (mostly without supporting evidence) and how annoyed they are that it made the list or is as high on the list as possible. What’s wrong with ‘that book wasn’t my cup of tea’ ‘it isn’t my taste’ ‘it didn’t appeal to me personally’ or ‘I never really understood what people saw in it.’? Why do we need “ugh!”

    A book being on this list, particularly high on this list, means a lot of people love it enough to vote for it, and they’re looking forward to it showing up on the list and seeing what people have to say about it. I do enjoy the positive comments so much more – it seems like this list is here celebrating beloved books. And if a book you love didn’t make it, that doesn’t mean Western Civilization is going to hell in a handbasket. It may mean not enough people considered it a children’s book, or that a number of people loved it but not as many as voted for other books (and given the far higher number of women voting than men, that’s likely to explain the probable absence of some books like The Hardy Boys).

    Remember that the question asked wasn’t “What do you think are the best, highest-quality books?” Betsy left the question more ambiguous, and specifically said she could see lists made up of classics, new favorites, and/or books you just loved. I put “Seven-Day Magic” and “All-of-a-Kind Family” on my list (next to classics and wonderful new books) not because I thought they were two of the best books I read in my entire life, but because they were two books that heavily influenced me as a child and that I think of again and again. And a kid, who is probably living more in the moment than us, may well vote for Wimpy Kid if that’s currently one of his favorite books. And I have to say, they’re frothy, but they get a lot of kids reading — and the philosophy I keep hearing is hook reluctant readers with whatever they like, and then watch them turn to other types of books. Would I put Wimpy Kid in the top 15 myself? Definitely not. Do I think it’s invalid for classrooms full of kids to include them on lists of their ten favorite books? No, I do not.

    On a lighter note, I loved the story up above about Harriet and Chapin School. I can picture it: “Do we want to be linked with that flaky teacher?”

  29. Genevieve says

    Sorry if that was too grumpy, Betsy – no flamewarring intended. And of course the comments don’t need to be all sweetness and light, and speculation like “I’m really surprised to see this so high in the poll” and the like isn’t what I was grumbling about. Just the “oh the horror! This [Name of Particularly Girly or Light Book] is such trash, how could people vote for that over my childhood favorite?!”

  30. Kate Coombs says

    The Diary of a Wimpy Kid books are really very funny (and capture certain aspects of middle school boys all too well!), but there’s a reason comedies don’t win Best Picture at the Academy Awards.

    I feel so clueless about what the rest of the list will look like! All I’m sure of is that Charlotte’s Web and Harry Potter 1 are bound to make an appearance.

  31. Thanks Genevieve for pointing out that to place this high it must have been loved by many, even if not you, the poster. There are a few on this list that I actively hate. I’m sighing and thinking I better reread them because clearly I’ve missed something that many love. I may still hate the title afterwards , but at least I’ll be able to consider the reason so many love a title and perhaps get an extra insightinto a title. It is still worth it for me.

  32. Donalyn Miller says

    I am holding out on sending my Top Ten until the very end– just for this reason. I would have put Harriet in my Top Ten, too.

    Tipping my hand a bit, but I am rooting for Meg and Charles Wallace to make the final list!

  33. Mr. Grumpy says

    Ms. Genevieve

    I really think you need to lighten up a bit. Can’t we just have a little fun?
    I’ve never said “oh the horror” or “this is such trash”.

    My comments were intended to be tongue in cheek. So obviously, since they were misinterpreted, I’ve failed miserably, and for that I apologize. Of course Wimpy Kid is getting boys reading, and hopefully leads them to more and more books.

    I’ve seen more than a few women posters say they didn’t like horse books.
    Personally, I don’t care how they phrase it:
    “horse books aren’t my cup of tea.”
    “ugh–horse books aren’t my cup of tea.”
    “horse books!–ugh!”

    I noticed after one of my comments a couple male lurkers jumped in to support Treasure Island and Tom Sawyer. Guy’s, I didn’t realize it–but this is very, very serious business! Guess we should just pick up our marbles and go back to watching our basketball. 🙂

  34. Heavens above. Maniac Magee comes out and nobody hardly comments. But pull out the old Harriet and suddenly we’ve seven different debates all at once.

    And of course, mine lips stay firmly closed until tomorrow’s next post . . .

  35. Does anybody else suspect Mr. Grumpy is Roger from Horn Book?

  36. Mr. Grumpy says


    No, I’m not Rodger Sutton–but if I’m being mistaken for him, he sounds like my kind of guy! Thanks for the compliment. 🙂

    Heck, what’s happening here is not really that bad.

    You want bad! Go to the Mock Newberry Blog when it’s it full swing.
    There’s kicking, eye-poking, biting, spitting, hairpulling, scratching…and that’s just between Nina and Jonathan.

    Ok…I promise…I’m going to stop pressing the Submit Key.

  37. David Ziegler says

    Betsy, I assume you realize that you missed the opportunity above to say “Heavens to me.” Or perhaps you avoid that phrase completely 🙂 There is alternately that favorite Snagglepuss phrase “Heavens to Murgatroyd!”

  38. The thought occurred. Though, you just cleared up a detail in the new Deborah Wiles book “Countdown”. In that book the kids are saying Heavens to Murgatroyd constantly. I was unaware of the Snagglepuss connection. Much obliged!

  39. Genevieve says

    Well, I shouldn’t post when I’m feverish (course I didn’t know I was till later). And I was glad to see former lurkers jumping in to talk about how they’re hoping to see Tom Sawyer and Treasure Island (and I jumped in to argue for The Hobbit, after your first post – it was the combination of your first and second that made me grumpy). Mr. Grumpy, I was paraphrasing with “trash” and “oh the horror” — but that pretty much describes your reaction of “Getting beat out by–a cartoon stick figure–a pair of ballet shoes–and a book that, “rhapsodizes about the wearing of a sanitary napkin”.
    UGGGH! We’re all going to hell!” and “Maybe “The Secret Garden” (ugh again!!!)”

    Anyway – you were grumpy, it made me grumpy. Certainly I don’t want anyone to pick up their marbles and go home. I’d prefer it if you could argue for your favorites (as you did) without feeling the need to tear other books down so fervently, but you know, it’s open comments and that’s just my opinion, don’t let it stop you from posting, please.

  40. Genevieve says

    – I strongly considered voting for Huck Finn, and at some point (but I think after I submitted my ten) checked with Betsy and was told it was not a children’s book.

    – I’m very glad to see more men posting, and voting, and commenting. My mention of the Hardy Boys coming low in the votes because there were fewer men wasn’t an approval of there being fewer men. (I have a son, who loves to read and is following the poll with bated breath, and he was so excited to see Hatchet – even though that’s not a book that I’ve been interested in reading, because survival stories don’t appeal to me much, I love that he’s excited about it).

    – “Heavens to me!” made me crack up. As does the idea of a classroom full of kids quoting Snagglepuss.

  41. My Boaz's Ruth says

    Except that BEtsy explicitly said that classics were to be considered okay for this poll no matter what their original audience.

  42. I did. But Huck Finn is not a children’s book. Never was, never will be. Tom Sawyer is, sure. Treasure Island is, absolutely. The Hobbit, you bet. But I don’t think we’ll ever see a 5th grade class learning Huck. Ain’t gonna happen.

  43. Mr. Grumpy says

    Yes Huck Finn is a very much a slog. The slang is fairly dense, almost as bad as Shakespere (OK maybe that’s a gross overstatement).

    Sorry Genevieve…yes, by bad. Way too much pot stirring on my part. And sorry to any others I have offended.

    Now, on to #15. 🙂

  44. Thanks, Mr. Grumpy, and sorry I ranted.

    I need to read #15! It won the Mark Twain Award, “an award given annually to a book for children in grades four through six by the Missouri Association of School Librarians.” Which I guess Tom Sawyer would’ve won, but not Huck Finn.

  45. Carl in Charlotte says

    Wow! What a great discussion. Geneveive, I totally agree with your statement that this list is our top FAVORITES. When I sent my top 10 to Betsy, I told her that she asked for the 100 Favorite books, not The 100 Children’s Books With Most Enduring Literary Merit.

  46. Scrumptious says

    I always feel a little cheated when I read about certain of these books. As I’m reading all the testimonials and comments I’m thinking to myself, “Wow, this book sounds fantastic! I can’t wait to read it” and then I must come back down to Earth and to the knowledge that I have already read it and it barely made a passing impression. I’ll never experience the “Harriet the Spy” that has you all in raptures, either because I read it at the wrong time (too early? too late?) or it just wasn’t for me. Jealous!

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