Louise Fitzhugh’s beloved classic Harriet the Spy celebrates its 50th anniversary this year. To honor this momentous occasion, The Eric Carle Museum of Picture Book Art in Amherst, Massachusetts has created Harriet the Spy Turns Fifty, an exhibition of the book’s original art. The exhibition premiered at The Forbes Galleries in New York on March 7 and will run until May 3, 2014. It will then be on view at The Carle from May 20 through November 30, 2014. Support for the exhibition has been generously provided by Random House Children’s Books. Random House will release a special 50th anniversary edition of Harriet the Spy on February 25.
“When Louise Fitzhugh introduced Harriet, she opened unlimited possibilities for generations of young readers,” says Chief Curator Nick Clark. “That we’re now celebrating the book’s fiftieth anniversary is a true testament to its enduring power.”
About the Book
The story follows Harriet M. Welsch, a precocious eleven-year-old who aspires to become a writer and a spy. Harriet writes down everything she observes about her friends and neighbors in her notebook. When Harriet’s classmates read her unflattering comments about them, she must find a way to make amends and restore her friendships. Fitzhugh wrote two sequels to the book, The Long Secret (1965) and Sport (1980).
Although now considered a milestone in children’s literature, Harriet the Spy initially received mixed reviews, according to children’s book expert Anita Silvey. Some critics panned Fitzhugh for creating an ill-mannered and cynical protagonist, fearing that grade-schoolers would not relate to such a dark character. Nevertheless, Harriet became a role model for many young readers. In 2004, Silvey selected the book as one of her 100 Best Books for Children. She noted: “In the late 1960s, Harriet the Spy Clubs became the rage, and young fans hid under tables in schools across the country, taking notes. The success of this fresh and frank novel influenced the children’s books of that decade, bringing them with a new wave of realism.” To this day, Harriet’s fierce independence and unbridled imagination have inspired readers of all ages.
Fitzhugh’s drawings are reminiscent of German and Austrian expressionism and provide a visual edge to the equally edgy narrative. Her angular lines and skewed perspectives echo the desperation and loneliness Harriet feels at the loss of her nanny Ole Golly and the rejection of her classmates. The unabashed honesty of Fitzhugh’s words and pictures has earned Harriet fifty years of devoted fans.
About the Exhibition
Featuring a host of works that have never been exhibited before, Harriet the Spy Turns Fifty will showcase the iconic illustrations from the book and the original artwork from its sequel, The Long Secret (1965). Also on view will be the watercolor of Harriet’s favored “tomato sandwich,” as well as letters between Fitzhugh and acclaimed Harper Collins publisher Ursula Nordstrom, a historic correspondence which was instrumental in creating the beloved classic.
About The Forbes Galleries
The Forbes Galleries, located in the heart of Greenwich Village, are tucked within the lobby of Forbes magazine’s headquarters in New York City. Typically open and free to the public, the galleries feature permanent and rotating exhibitions from Forbes magazine’s collection of fine art and vintage items, as well as special shows on loan from other museums and collections. Among the museum’s collection are a number of Fabergé Eggs, an armada of 500 toy ships and 12,000 toy soldiers, and an original Monopoly board.
About The Eric Carle Museum of Picture Book Art
The mission of The Eric Carle Museum of Picture Book Art, a non-profit organization in Amherst, MA, is to inspire a love of art and reading through picture books. The only full-scale museum of its kind in the United States, The Carle collects, preserves, presents, and celebrates picture books and picture book illustrations from around the world. In addition to underscoring the cultural, historical, and artistic significance of picture books and their art form, The Carle offers educational programs that provide a foundation for arts integration and literacy.
Eric and Barbara Carle founded the Museum in November 2002. Eric Carle is the renowned author and illustrator of more than 70 books, including the 1969 classic The Very Hungry Caterpillar. Since opening, the 40,000-square foot facility has served more than half a million visitors, including 30,000 schoolchildren. Its extensive resources include a collection of more than 10,000 picture book illustrations, three art galleries, an art studio, a theater, picture book and scholarly libraries, and educational programs for families, scholars, educators, and schoolchildren. Educational offerings include professional training for educators around the country. Museum hours are Tuesday through Friday 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., Saturday 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., and Sunday 12 noon to 5 p.m. Open Mondays in July and August and during MA school vacation weeks. Admission is $9 for adults, $6 for children under 18, and $22.50 for a family of four. For further information and directions, call 413-658-1100 or visit the Museum’s website at www.carlemuseum.org.