harriet the spy ~ tomato sandwiches

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The next morning Mrs. Welsch asked, “Wouldn’t you like to try a ham sandwich, or egg salad, or peanut butter?” Her mother looked quizzically at Harriet while the cook stood next to the table looking enraged.

“Tomato,” said Harriet, not even bothering to look up from the book she was reading.

~from Harriet the Spy by Louise Fitzhugh

Do any of you remember this awesome book? I read Harriet the Spy when I was in third grade, and when I was done devouring it I immediately went out to get the sequel, The Long Secret. This is the first book that ever made a lasting impression on me. I was taken in by this awkward, lovable, smart and sassy character. Harriet has moxie, and her character is still among one of my top ten favorites.

I picked up the book again in seventh grade while my parents were renting a farmhouse on a dairy farm in Rush City, Minnesota. I was inspired to start a spy route and talked one of my best friends into spying with me. Unfortunately, with the exception of cows, bees and corn growing, there isn’t much to spy on in small, rural town in Minnesota. Our adventures didn’t last very long. I do remember writing our spy journals in Pig Latin so that nobody would possibly understand  them should they fall into the wrong hands. This stealthy thinking obviously made us naturals and I wonder, to this day, if we possibly missed our calling.

Yesterday I had a very specific craving for a tomato sandwich. It got me thinking about Harriet M. Welsch. I started to excavate the fridge and cupboard for the ingredients : soft bread, ripe, juicy tomato, Hellman’s mayonnaise, salt and pepper. I got out a plate and then I paused. I climbed the steps to my daughter’s room and scanned her bookshelf looking for my copy (now her copy) of Harriet the Spy. I found it, all tattered and taped, and brought it downstairs where I skimmed it while I ate my yummy, very messy sandwich. I found the quote that I was looking for and wrote it down.

Man, that sandwich was GOOD! I’ve always loved the simple, delicious ingredients, but once I had read about Harriet they tasted even better. Inspiration and imagination are the very best seasonings, wouldn’t you agree?

What are your favorite books from childhood? What books made a lasting impression?


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