Sometimes You Have to Lie: The Life and Times of Louise Fitzhugh, Renegade Author of Harriet the Spy by Leslie Brody

Spanning just three books, the Harriet the Spy children’s series (1964–79), focused on the life of an intrepid, 11-year-old New York City sleuth, has been called a “milestone in children’s literature” and is estimated to have sold as many as 2.5 million copies. It was also banned in much of the Southern U.S., the reason, summed up by a school board in Xenia, Ohio, in 1983, being that it encouraged children to disrespect their parents by talking back, spying on others, and lying.

The title of Leslie Brodie’s biography of Harriet the Spy’s creator, Louise Fitzhugh, is aptly named after one of Fitzhugh’s character’s most memorable lines. In Sometimes You Have to Lie, Brodie traces the author’s privileged but turbulent upbringing in segregated Tennessee to her 20s as a painter in New York, and her later adulthood as a successful children’s-book writer and illustrator, revealing Fitzhugh to be just as irreverent and frank as her beloved creation.