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Harriet The Spy Book Two
And now, reading Book Two of Harriet the Spy!
Book Two, AKA Life Without Ole Golly.
Harriet’s father is named Harry, which explains her own name, but isn’t it weird that it’s also the name of Janie’s dad?
Harriet is the onion! With improvised dances! What kind of school is this?
More caustic thoughts about people. And some great descriptions! Miss Berry “looked as though she had just come up out of a subway and didn’t know east from west.”
Spying, wanting to share with Ole Golly, and can’t.
And here, the only thing I really have an issue with for this book: the Italian family is too over the top, too much of a stereotype. Even knowing it’s Harriet’s limited, prejudiced viewpoint, it’s a bit much.
Withers lost his cats! He’s alone!
I’ll give Harriet this. She at least is trying to be an onion.
Oh, the family has a nameless maid to go with the nameless cook.
Love the family bonding and laughing over being an onion! Would this have been possible if Ole golly was there? But then Harriet leaves them, leaves the moment, to write it down. And it’s awkward.
And Harriet — she’s out of sorts, and can’t figure out why. Not realizing how to process Ole Golly’s loss, and not having her, and, well, also getting older.
Oh, Harriet. Talking about Mrs. Plumber: “Some people just don’t think things out.” Could be talking about herself.
HARRIET IS DISCOVERED. I thought this was later in the book! What a kick in the teeth after Ole Golly’s loss!
Wait, Nadine winks at Harriet. Did Nadine know Harriet was in there? Has Nadine known the whole time?
Well, how could Harriet have been walking around in that outfit for years and people not know?
And Harriet takes out grumpiness on others.
It’s time for tag and again, I thought this happened later in the book!
Harriet keeps getting knocked down — Ole Golly, discovered in her spy route, and now this.
And I missed that it’s Janie, her friend Janie, going through it and reading it.
“and suddenly Harriet M. Welsch was afraid. [Her classmates] just looked and looked, and their eyes were the meanest eyes she had ever seen.”
ARGH. Her private notebooks! Exposed! Made public.
And it’s all the worse that her private thoughts are, well, so honest. Which is hurtful to those they are about.
So Harriet gets a new notebook. And starts writing again, in front of them. She’s like a notebook addict.
The revenge of the classmates starts. And once again we see how ordinary Harriet actually is — how her spying hasn’t really taught her any human insights or additional awareness — because the poor thing doesn’t realize the notes she intercepts are MEANT to be read by her.
And everybody hates her. And she just wants her cake.
Oh, Harriet. One minute, you’re the best spy ever. The next, you don’t realize that your doctor is also your classmate’s father.
And now Harriet is spying on her friends. They’re building a clubhouse, united — and still, she doesn’t quite realize they are bonding against her. Talking about her.
And I forgot she wrote an anonymous note that would obviously be from her.
The ink spill! In 1964, they had bottles of ink?
I love that the teachers don’t realize what is going on. And the parents, they don’t either — even though the doctor knew a bit about it. Yet they are so uninvolved.
“The Spy Catcher Club.” Well, they’re honest.
So Harriet…. writes more. I feel both terrible for Harriet, yet at the same time, frustrated that she doesn’t see her role in what happened and is happening. It’s like it’s being done to her, for no good reason.
And now the notebook is interfering with school.
I’m not sure, but I think her observations about others may be getting worse? Meaner? More critical?
And wondering how all readers are, in a way, Harriets. Observing others in stories, judging.
Harriet is ignoring all school work, getting further and further into her own head, away from the world.
Harriet obviously has feelings about all this. Is hurt. But she really doesn’t seem to get her role in this; that she wrote hurtful things and people will react accordingly. But then, she is eleven. A child. Who is still the center of the universe, not quite convinced that others exist outside of how she wants them to exist for her.
So her mother takes the notebook, because she’s not doing her schoolwork, and while the child me hater her mother for this the adult me totally understands and thinks, hey, it’s just while she’s at school.
And now that Harriet doesn’t have a notebook as an outlet, her feelings and emotions have to go somewhere. I know that often Harriet is seen as a writer, but, well, here it seems as if it’s something else.
That Harriet is a bundle of emotions, including anger and fear and loneliness and want, and the notebook was her safe outlet. Without it, now, those feelings have to go somewhere, be acted on somehow.
So she trips Pinky and is HAPPY about it.
I love Harriet, for having these emotions and owning it and not being ashamed. Because just as her notebook was her outlet for intense emotions, reading this can be an outlet for those kids having those feelings.
And… wow. She causes a lot of chaos. And makes a list to do even more.
What is the matter with Harriet? It’s got to be more than Ole Golly being gone. That’s part of it…. but it’s also just, well, being human and growing up and not being perfect, but a messy mix of emotions.
And she escapes into sleep.
I guess the throwing the shoe meant her parents had to pay attention, because now she visits a doctor who is clearly a psychologist or psychiatrist.
Poor Harriet: she is reaching out, doesn’t know how, visits Janie and Sport. But she can’t just restart a friendship.
And next: Book Three!
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About Elizabeth Burns
Looking for a place to talk about young adult books? Pull up a chair, have a cup of tea, and let's chat. I am a New Jersey librarian. My opinions do not reflect those of my employer, SLJ, YALSA, or anyone else. On Twitter I'm @LizB; my email is email@example.com.
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