Harriet the Spy

Last summer, I did a talk for a Library of Congress contest called A Book that Shaped Me. If I had entered the contest myself, my essay would have been about Harriet the Spy. Because I’m pretty sure that my career as a journalist started the day I read that book. And though I eventually replaced Harriet’s composition books with reporter’s notebooks, I kept filling pages with notes on how people lived their lives. I spent a childhood and an adulthood playing her guessing games — deciding how people would look before I turned around, making up back-stories for everyone I’d meet. I rolled on the floor like an onion. I read with a flashlight under the covers. I developed an obsession with dumb waiters. For poem-in your-pocket day, I am sure to fold a copy of The Walrus and the Carpenter into halves and then half and half again. Harriet M. Welsch taught me about the complexities of human relationships. She’s doing it still. Happy birthday, Harriet; I’m glad you were born.

Ways to celebrate Harriet the Spy’s 50th Birthday:

World Read Aloud Day approaches; you know what to do.

– Get yourself a fresh composition notebook. Begin.

– Give a copy of Harriet the Spy to a kid who hasn’t read it.

– Eavesdrop with abandon.

– Buy an orange hoodie.

– Read under the covers.

– Make a toolbelt, ala Harriet. (This blog post has a good example.)

-Serve up a batch of tomato sandwiches. A candle is optional.

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