Or perhaps Harriet, now 61, still is a spy and right now is sitting in a coffee shop sipping on a latte and recording in her notebook the conversation of the couple at the next table and making note of what the man at the counter is wearing.
Harriet, of course, is the creation of author and illustrator Louise Fitzhugh. When the book Harriet the Spy was published fifty years ago, Our Harriet was an 11-year-old girl living and going to school in New York City. Her father had some sort of job in television, her mother played bridge, and they both pretty much left Harriet alone to be raised by the nanny Ole Golly and the cook.
Harriet spends her afternoons after school going along her spy route and writing down her observations. First there is Dei Santi's grocery, then Harrison Withers and his 26 cats, the Robinsons with a house full of things they like to show people, and Agatha Plumber, a woman who spends her days in bed.
Harriet lives on tomato sandwiches, egg creams, and her afternoon treat of milk and cake. She has her specific spy clothes (jeans and hooded sweatshirt), her notebook, and a tool belt holding her flashlight and extra pens.
She has two best friends: Sport, who tends to his father who spends his days and nights holed up writing the Great American Novel, and Janie, who wants to be a scientist and blow up the world.
The life of a spy holds certain dangers. Harriet is not above writing about her friends and classmates and this is where she really gets into trouble. Her classmates find her notebook and read about themselves through the eyes of a spy. Harriet is truthful if not always complimentary in her observations.
Ms. Fitzhugh has created an intelligent, energetic Harriet. She also gives the reader - young or old - a glimpse into different lifestyles of the adults in the story and teaches Harriet a few lessons about life.
Harriet the Spy is another book I missed reading when I was younger. I wish I had made Harriet's acquaintance sooner.