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The 50th anniversary of ‘Harriet the Spy’

Publication of author/illustrator Louise Fitzhugh’s “Harriet the Spy” in 1964 brought realism to  children’s fiction.
Publication of author/illustrator Louise Fitzhugh’s “Harriet the Spy” in 1964 brought realism to children’s fiction.Louise Fitzhugh

The publication of “Harriet the Spy” (Harper & Row) in 1964 marked a new era in children’s literature. Through the cynical 11-year-old Harriet she created, author and illustrator Louise Fitzhugh brought contemporary realism to the world of children’s fiction.

As Harriet, the daughter of affluent New Yorkers, chronicles the goings-on in her life, little of what she writes about her neighbors and classmates is flattering. When her notebook gets into the wrong hands, she has a lot of explaining to do.

The 50th anniversary edition of the novel, published by Delacorte earlier this year, featured tributes from Judy Blume, Lois Lowry, Gregory Maguire, and other well-loved writers of books for younger readers.

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The anniversary celebration continues at the Eric Carle Museum of Picture Book Art in Amherst with an exhibit of Fitzhugh’s illustrations for “Harriet the Spy” and a sequel, “The Long Secret.” Also on display is Fitzhugh’s correspondence with Ursula Nordstrom, the children’s book editor credited with publishing works that spoke to children’s emotions and imaginations, instead of moralistic works that appealed to parents.

Sampling journals

With hundreds of literary magazines being published in the United States, how’s a reader to find the ones she’ll like best? Journal of the Month is one option. The service, at www.journalofthemonth.com/, surprises subscribers with four to 24 literary magazines in their mailboxes at regular intervals.

Needham resident Jenn Scheck-Kahn created the service two and a half years ago when she wanted to sample literary magazines without committing to a subscription. She curates the list of offerings, requiring that each journal have a print edition; publish fiction, nonfiction, and poetry; and contribute a compelling voice to the contemporary scene.

The service selects from about 30 literary magazines from across the nation. They range in age from Carolina Quarterly, founded in 1844 as the North Carolina University Magazine, to three founded in 2011: Unstuck, based in Austin; Ocean State Review, founded at the University of Rhode Island Kingston; and The Common, based at Amherst College.

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Two of Scheck-Kahn’s favorites are Booth, based at Butler University in Indianapolis, and Post Road, now affiliated with Boston College. Both publish exceptional prose, and each has an additional “genre” that she likes. Booth includes a series of character sketches in the vein of “Winesburg, Ohio.” Post Road features book recommendations from writers.

Scheck-Kahn, who earned an MFA after working in the software industry as a technical writer, also operates Tell It Slant, a Web-based service that keeps track of writers’ submissions to literary magazines. The name comes from Emily Dickinson’s exhortation, “Tell all the truth but tell it slant.”

Since she started it in 2010, Tell It Slant has tracked 44,000 submissions from 27,000 writers. Scheck-Kahn appreciates the synergy between the two services. Writers tend to be ferocious readers, and they need to familiarize themselves with literary journals as they decide where to submit their work. Journal of the Month now has about 700 subscribers — and lots of room to grow.

Coming out

 “The New York Times Easy Does It Crosswords” edited by Will Shortz (St. Martin’s)

 “Factory Man: How One Furniture Maker Battled Offshoring, Stayed Local — and Helped Save an American Town” by Beth Macy (Little, Brown)

■  “Evergreen” by Rebecca Rasmussen (Knopf)

Pick of the Week

Liberty Hardy of RiverRun Bookstore in Portsmouth, N.H., recommends “The Girls From Corona del Mar” by Rufi Thorpe (Knopf): “I have not read such a stinging portrayal of female friendship since Margaret Atwood’s ‘Cat’s Eye.’ The relationship between Mia and Lorrie Ann is a wonderful example of the secrets and truths we hide from ourselves and others. Their journey will leave you heartbroken in the best way.”

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Jan Gardner can be reached at JanLGardner@yahoo.com.