Louise Fitzhugh

Louise Fitzhugh

Louise Fitzhugh (October 5, 1928 – November 19, 1974) was an American author, born in Memphis, Tennessee. She wrote and illustrated children’s and young adult books, the best known and most beloved of which remains Harriet the Spy.

Fitzhugh’s first work was Suzuki Beane (1961) – a beatnik spoof of Eloise. Collaborating with Sandra Scoppattone on this book, she functioned as the illustrator. Though the book was lightly tossed off as a parody, it proved charming and well done. Today, this rare book is much sought after. In addition to her writing, Fitzhugh had a minor career as an artist, with her drawings shown in New York galleries.

The daughter of a well-to-do family, Fitzhugh attended Miss Hutchinson’s school and went on to attend several different colleges. It is believed that she never attained a degree. She was married briefly to a man, but after their divorce, she was mainly interested in women. She didn’t, however, form any lifelong attachments.

Harriet the Spy cover by Louise FitzhughHarriet the Spy, published in 1964, was about a young girl whose parents were more interested in their social life, leaving her in the care of her beloved nanny, who she called Ole Golly. The book explored independence, loneliness, and observation, as Harriet, obsessed with her notebook, recorded in blunt detail what she saw in the world around her.

Its gritty realism, rarely seen in books of its era, made Harriet the Spy a bit controversial. It was banned outright by many schools. In other quarters, it was highly praised, and was named by the New York Times Outstanding Book Award in 1964. In the end, it set the stage for more realistic books for kids, with characters grappling with real situations and problems. Harriet was seen by some as a too-flawed heroine, but to others, that was a great part of her appeal.  The book remains a modern classic, and Harriet is a beloved literary heroine.

Fitzhugh won a posthumous Emmy in 1979 for The Tap Dance Kid, a made-for-television adaptation of her book Nobody’s Family is Going to Change.

Fitzhugh produced two Harriet sequels, but neither was as successful as the original. These were The Long Secret and Double Agent. She didn’t have a long and prolific career, as she died in 1974 at age 46 of a brain aneurysm. Two more books, also spun off from the original Harriet The SpySport and Nobody’s Family is Going to Change — were published after her death. Louis Fitzhugh died in 1974 of a brain aneurism at the age of 46.

Major Works

Biography on Louise Fitzhugh

Film adaptations of Louise Fitzhugh’s works

More Information


Louise Fitzhugh on a swing “Don’t mess with anybody on a Monday. It’s a bad, bad day.” (Harriet the Spy, 1964)

“People who love work, love life.” (Harriet the Spy, 1964)

“There are as many ways to live as there are people.” (Harriet the Spy, 1964)

“Sometimes you have to lie. But to yourself you must always tell the truth.” (Harriet the Spy, 1964)

“She found that when she didn’t have a notebook it was hard for her to think. The thoughts came slowly, as though they had to squeeze through a tiny door to get to her, whereas when she wrote, they flowed out faster than she could put them down.” (Harriet the Spy, 1964)

“When people don’t do anything they don’t think anything, and when people don’t think anything there’s nothing to think about them.” (Harriet the Spy, 1964)

“Life is a struggle and a good spy goes in there and fights.” (Harriet the Spy, 1964)

“When somebody goes away there’s things you want to tell them. When somebody dies maybe that’s the worst thing. You want to tell them things that happen after.” (Harriet the Spy, 1964)

“I wonder if when you dream about somebody they dream about you.” (Harriet the Spy, 1964)

“Dear Me: Why am I so different? Why am I never happy? Is everybody like this or just me? I am truly a mouse. I have no desire at all to be me.” (the Long Secret, 1965)

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