Long Lost Reviews: Harriet the Spy by Louise Fitzhugh

Long Lost Reviews is a monthly meme created by Ally over at Ally’s Appraisals which is posted on the second Thursday of every month. The aim is to start tackling your review backlog. Whether it’s an in-depth analysis of how it affected your life, one sentence stating that you only remember the ending, or that you have no recollection of reading the book at all. 

Published: 1st July 1996Goodreads badge
Publisher:
 HarperTrophy
Pages: 298
Format: Paperback
Genre: Junior Fiction
★   ★   ★   ★  – 4 Stars

Harriet M. Welsch is determined to grow up and be a famous author. In the meantime, she practices by following a regular spy route each day and writing down everything she sees in her secret notebook.

Then one morning, Harriet’s life is turned upside down. Her classmates find her spy notebook and read it out loud! Harriet’s in big trouble. The other sixth-graders are stealing her tomato sandwiches, forming a spy-catcher club, and writing notes of their own — all about Harriet!

I reread this book so many times as a kid. I had the movie tie-in cover which is now much loved as evidence by the very crinkled cover. I don’t remember a lot of the little details, but I have always had an affection for this book. This was probably reinforced by the movie, but to be honest, it was a great movie.

Harriet wants to be a writer, therefore she must practice. She writes down everything in her notebook, everything she sees and everything people say and do around her. I’d never thought about whether it was Harriet who subconsciously got me interested in becoming an author, I award that honour to John Marsden, but maybe she put a small seed in my head as well which started the idea growing.

Since I was a kid when I saw the movie and read the book, the movie has imprinted itself on me much more. The movie got me interested in The Walrus and the Carpenter poem, despite the fact I probably would have seen Alice in Wonderland first. I remember loving this book, and I definitely think I have blurred the movie and the book together in my imagination, but it was a great book to show what happens when you write about other people and put your opinions on paper in full detail.

I remember the book being a lot more serious than the blurb makes it sound like. As a kid I guess these things are more dire and I just remember the feeling I experienced when the others find Harriet’s notebook. The second hand mortification I felt stays with me now. It was the most intense and climactic thing I had read since being stressed about Bastian in The Never Ending Story.

Doing these Long Lost Reviews has made me reminisce about some wonderful books I know I’ve loved but have long forgotten. They also spark a strong desire to reread them, even when I can barely read the books I haven’t read yet. I may have to find some room though to revisit this little gem.

The 91-Storey Treehouse by Andy Griffiths

Published: 8th August 2017Goodreads badge
Publisher:
  Pan Macmillan Australia
Pages: 384
Format: Paperback
Genre: Junior Fiction
★   ★   ★   ★  – 4 Stars

Join Andy and Terry in their ridiculous 91-storey treehouse! Go for a spin in the world’s most powerful whirlpool, take a ride in a submarine sandwich, get marooned on a desert island, hang out in a giant spider web, visit the fortune teller’s tent to get your fortune told by Madame Know-it-all and decide whether or not to push the mysterious big red button. Well, what are you waiting for? Come on up!

This might be up there as one of my favourites of the Treehouse books. It’s silly, but clever, filled with adventure and you can’t help but love these characters as they go on these wild adventures and get into all kinds of strife.

Griffiths’ talent is that one thing blends so well into another as he’s telling the story. Madam Know-it-all leads into the Big Button which gives us a hint at the story to come as Andy and Terry must scramble to make sense of the clues and cryptic answers. I also love how Griffiths links together all of the new storeys and they get to become part of the new adventure and not just an unseen addition.

Andy and Terry go on another adventure in this book with Mr Big Nose’s grandchildren in tow. There are wonderful references in this book to other pop culture things such as Narnia, The Beatles, and 20 Thousand Leagues Under the Sea, all with a delightful twist that suit the Andy and Terry universe. I loved the humour that comes through in both the writing and the illustrations and the balance between serious and silly is great, you know these boys can get into strife without it ever getting too serious, but serious enough that it’s engaging and adventurous.

With these wonderful adventures are also the brilliant accompaniment of Denton’s illustrations. Depending on the story, Denton’s illustrations can be simple or incredibly complicated. This is one of those great times because the amount of detail Denton has put into these drawings is amazing.  There are some wonderfully clever drawings as Andy and Terry try to wrangle the grandchildren on their myriad of adventures through the many exciting new storeys filled with tiny surprises for the keen eyed reader.

These books are quirky and funny and the more you read the more they grow on you. It will be interesting to see how high Griffiths and Denton plan to take this, because surely they are going to run out of tree eventually. Until then I will look forward to the continuing antics of Andy and Terry.

You can purchase The 91-Storey Treehouse via the following

QBD | Dymocks | Book Depository

Booktopia | Angus and Robertson | Fishpond

Amazon | Amazon Aust | Audible

Wordery | Publisher

The 65-Storey Treehouse by Andy Griffiths

Published: 12 August 2015 (print)/12 August 2015 (audio) Goodreads badge
Publisher:
  Pan Macmillan Australia /Bolinda Audio
Pages: 384/2 Hours 13 mins
Narrator: Stig Wemyss
Format: Audiobook
Genre: Junior Fiction
★   ★   ★  – 3 Stars

Andy and Terry’s amazing 65-Storey Treehouse now has a pet-grooming salon, a birthday room where it’s always your birthday (even when it’s not), a room full of exploding eyeballs, a lollipop shop, a quicksand pit, an ant farm, a time machine and Tree-NN: a 24-hour-a-day TV news centre keeping you up to date with all the latest treehouse news, current events and gossip. Well, what are you waiting for? Come on up!

With a touch of Jack and the Beanstalk, time travel and the film Them! it’s a curious adventure Andy and Terry go on. Jill comes in with her logic and reason to bring the boys into line and solve their problems all of which combine to be a pretty normal day in the treehouse.

In this new adventure you learn new words, get to travel through history in a wheelie bin, albeit a smidge inaccurately, but it is fun. TreeNN is a fun addition as well, ending chapters with something different. I liked the break in formula in this one, no book talk, instead we need a building inspection from Inspector Bubblewrap. This prompts the time travel and all sorts of mishaps as they try to travel back 6.5 years and end up at all different points through history.

Admittedly, I couldn’t get into this story as easily as the others. I liked the diversion from the normal structure because that can be boring after a while. It was fun but not as engaging as the previous stories. I also got a visual copy in the end because while Wemyss has done a brilliant job in the past to compensate, I needed Denton’s illustrations this time to appreciate some of the jokes and references.

The Treehouse series continues to grow and change with each book and the creativity and inventiveness of Griffiths and Denton is amazing. The jokes are clever and the illustrations are so detailed that there is always something to discover in them. The two make a perfect team and while I didn’t love this storey as much as previous storeys, I look forward to seeing what the next storey in the treehouse has to offer.

You can purchase The 65-Storey Treehouse via the following

QBD | Dymocks | Book Depository

Booktopia | Angus and Robertson | Fishpond

Amazon | Amazon Aust | Audible

Wordery | Publisher

78-Storey Treehouse by Andy Griffiths

Published: 1st August 2016Goodreads badge
Publisher:
  Pan Macmillan Australia
Pages: 375
Format: Paperback
Genre: Junior Fiction
★   ★   ★   ★  – 4 Stars

Join Andy and Terry in their spectacular new 78-storey treehouse. They’ve added 13 new levels including a drive-thru car wash, a combining machine, a scribbletorium, an ALL-BALL sports stadium, Andyland, Terrytown, a high-security potato chip storage facility and an open-air movie theatre. Well, what are you waiting for? Come on up!

Another 13 storeys means another grand adventure and zany levels to explore. This time poor Andy get pushed aside as Terry becomes the star of the new upcoming Treehouse movie and in true Terry style lets it go to his head and he becomes a little bit mean. Because there is no need of a narrator in this film, Andy must find ways to amuse himself which involves exploring the many new rooms of the treehouse including trying to hatch the giant egg, spinning the plates in the spinning room, and scribbling some more in the scribbling room.

This is a great Andy centred adventure because while Terry is the star of the film, Andy becomes the star of the book. I loved this, it’s fun and silly and hilarious in all the right places. Jill also makes an appearance, I’m always glad to see Jill get her time to shine in these stories, she’s a wonderful character.

Since I read this book instead of the audio I got to appreciate the drawings, and they were fantastic. When I read one of these with creative illustrations I forget the great audio Wemyss does to express the illustrations and admire Denton’s drawings instead. They are very funny and very clever, filled with little secret critters or comments, if you stare at them long enough you keep finding hidden gems in some of the more complicated ones that are both relevant and not relevant at all, and like all good illustrations they certainly bring something extra to the story. Griffith’s writing is wonderful but needs accompaniment whether it’s Denton’s drawings or the sound effects on the audiobooks and Wemyss’ voices.

I love that this book (and the whole series really) breaks the fourth wall, it goes a bit silly and illogical but that’s half the fun. Andy’s attempts at staying out of the way always end up interrupting the movie in some way and when nefarious things begin to happen, no one believes him.

I also loved that there are stages in the Treehouse stories, just when one aspect is solved something else happens, or while you are trying to enjoy one adventure something else pops up as well, skilfully coming together in the end with Griffiths clever writing. Writing which in itself can be delightfully convenient and illogical but which makes the story that much more enjoyable. I love the reality that this treehouse exists in where anything is possible and logic and physics don’t really need to play a part.

On top of the dazzle that is a Teehouse movie, you can also expect action and adventure in this book, you can also expect rhyming rants, suspicious cows, the ever delightful Mr Big Nose, as well as lot of Andy’s. Possibly one of my favourite treehouse books, not only because the writing is funny, but despite having the same basic formula for six books now, this is still an original story that goes in directions you didn’t even know it could take. I can only imagine what another 13 storeys is going to involve but I look forward to reading about it.

You can purchase The 78-Storey Treehouse via the following

QBD | Dymocks | Book Depository

Booktopia | Angus and Robertson | Fishpond

Amazon | Amazon Aust | Audible

Wordery | Publisher

The Brilliant World of Tom Gates by Liz Pichon

 Published: 4th April 2011 Goodreads badge
Publisher:
  Scholastic
Pages: 256
Format: Paperback
Genre:
 Junior Fiction
★    ★    ★    ★  – 4 Stars

All Tom Gates wants to do is get tickets to see his favourite band when they come to town. It’s not easy when he’s up against Delia, his weirdo big sister. All of his plans seem to get him into major trouble!

I wasn’t expecting this to be such a funny book. I was reading and actually laughed out loud at some of the things Pichon has written. It was such a different experience than Wimpy Kid where I disliked it almost immediately. The premise is the same (young kid, diary, shenanigans) but the reading experience and the content is so much better. It’s a case of English versus American which accounts for the differences and once you realise that you understand the different styles of humour.

I will admit, Tom is a little mean, but it’s childlike and a bit more innocent. The kind of annoying kid in class that make teachers want to retire early and hold back their exasperated sighs. It’s fairly harmless joking and being an annoying younger brother than actually being cruel or deceitful. You believe that Tom is being himself and not really thinking things through, there is no real intended malice in his actions.

He isn’t constantly like this though; for the most part, he is a young kid who is in a band with his friend, he is embarrassed by his dad’s clothes, wants to see his favourite band, and tries to impress a girl at school. When he gets in trouble he learns his lesson and there is a cheekiness about Tom that makes you smile, even when he is in the wrong.

One of the things I loved is that it’s very interactive with the inclusion of the pictures. Tom is a character who doodles in his school books and you experience his days through his drawings on the page as much as the words he’s written. It goes beyond one drawing per page, there are drawings through the text and pages where it is just drawings and a random array of Tom’s thoughts and emotions. It portrays a young boy’s book extremely well and I can’t wait to keep reading the series.

You can purchase The Brilliant World of Tom Gates via the following

QBD | Booktopia

Book Depository | Dymocks

Amazon | Amazon Aust

Audible | Fishpond | Wordery

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