20 February 2015


Young Detectives: E is for Ericson

Since my word for 2014 is CLEAR, defined as the opposite of CLUTTER, I should also get started on all those drafts that I've been meaning to publish for years. Some of them are timelier--that is to say, so much later--than the others, so they get to go first. We've done A for Allison, B for Bellairs, C for Clements, D for Dowd, and even a highly optimistic R for Restoration, but only today do we finally learn which author got to be E and who her Young Detective is . . .

Spying on Harriet's book spying on the other books

Dear Helen Ericson,

May I begin with a confession? Harriet the Spy may be both a beloved children's story and a literary classic in its own right . . . but I have never liked it very much! I didn't care for the ending when I was a child; and when I reread it as an adult, I found it as unsatisfying as ever. "Sometimes you have to lie" isn't a moral that I can be very sympathetic to, even if the second half of it is: "but to yourself you must always tell the truth." How can there be true community if we cannot share the truth with others?

But Louise Fitzhugh had deeper reasons for resolving the dilemma that way, as I learned when Harriet the Spy was featured on the November 2014 Classic MG Discussion at The Midnight Garden. There were many things that she felt she couldn't say about herself--and that's likely why there are many things that Harriet has to learn she can't say about others. The bloggers who led the discussion also suggested that the novel ends after the first step in Harriet's journey to true self-awareness and empathy: if it feels unsatisfying, that's because we don't get to see the rest of the process . . . but then again, do we really need to?

Well, I think I needed to, which is why I read your novel Harriet Spies Again. (If you're wondering why I didn't try The Long Secret and Sport, which are the "canonical" sequels, well, there's the prosaic reason that I couldn't find them! =P) It was interesting to revisit Harriet M. Welsch with that new perspective. Was it also the perspective from which you saw her when you took on this project?

I ask because Harriet does seem less troubled in these chapters that you've added to her story. There is less lone spying and more teamwork--and instead of standing apart from the people she is trying to figure out, she actually interacts with some of them! You've also written in a way for her to get a taste of her own medicine that shows just how small-minded and unimaginative her classmates' attempt to get even was in the first book. Perhaps it's not as realistic as Louise Fitzhugh's treatment, but it's definitely more forgiving--and more fun! But the best part is that Harriet does get to grow--and when she does, she grows like herself.

That is, her development is believable because the seeds of it were already in Harriet the Spy. She still cherishes her original ambition "to know everything in the world," but now she reflects more deeply upon her nanny Ole Golly's counsel, "It won't do you a bit of good to know everything if you don't do anything with it." In Harriet Spies Again, there is as much doing as there is spying: our girl spy gets to be a moral agent for the first time, using the intelligence she has gathered . . . and she does wonderfully!

I also want to compliment you on the development of Sport Rocque's character. He is my favourite quirky personality in your novel! I wish I could taste one of his pies . . . and get a shot at impressing him with one of mine . . .

Sincerely Yours,


DONE! =D This book took a long time TO CLEAR, didn't it? I'm so glad that it finally has! Now let's hope my book for F, which I already have lying around, won't take me another year. LOL!

No comments: