At the Horn Book:
Enter Harriet M. Welsch, who became my role model and savior. I read Harriet the Spy soon after it came out (and I now bless the school librarian who put it on the library shelves for me to find). I was absolutely shocked by it at the time. Shocked that Harriet could defy her parents and her friends and still survive. Shocked that she loved and missed Ole Golly so much that she threw a shoe at her father to express her anger. Shocked that an adult author could know so well what really went on in the minds of children.
Seriously, go read it. By the end, I was all weepy.
Love Harriet, now and forever.
(The essay originally ran in the January 2005 issue of the Horn Book, but just re-ran at the website yesterday.)