Harriet M. Welsch is a spy. Every day after school, she goes home to have cake and milk, and then she walks her spy route. She records her observations in her notebook--all of her observations, all of the time. Things about Mr. Dei Santi, the grocer, and Harrison Withers, who makes bird cages and has a lot of cats--these people, she observes through their windows. She also makes notes about her friends, the kids at school who are not her friends, her parents, and her nurse, Ole Golly. Not all the notes are exactly nice, though they are all 100% true, so when the kids at school actually read her notebook...well, Harriet's going to have to have some serious amends to make. That is, if she can ever realizes that there's anything to apologize for.
I had a lot of trouble doing a plot summary for this book, only because--well, the plot isn't the point, and there's not really one big issue. Reading the book is a certainly fascinating, not really because of what happens, but just because of Harriet. She's complex and has a million flaws and you want to shake her, but you just love her anyway. Well, I loved her, anyway. And Sport. I loved Sport so much and wanted to snuggle him and make him sandwiches, and also, I totally want Harriet and Sport to get married. I just feel they are MFEO.
It is kind of a disturbing book, though, and there's not a chance that it'd be published as is, today. Harriet's friend Janie is constantly threatening to blow up things, people, even the school...and she has a lab in her room where she's trying to develop explosives. And there aren't any negative consequences for her. Harriet herself is basically a sociopath, and while there are consequences, she doesn't actually have to change anything about herself in order to win back her friends. She just apologizes, publicly, and even then, it's not genuine. She knows, and it's stated explicitly in the text, that the apology is a lie, and that she's only doing it to win her friends back and make her life easier. She doesn't feel any remorse for hurt she causes, just for the hurt she feels.
But it's a classic for a reason. All children are sociopaths, right? And Harriet is, ultimately, incredibly relatable.