Heidi by Johanna Spyri



Heidi (Puffin Classics) HeidiSpyri, Johanna; Puffin 1995WorldCat

Heidi’s parents die when she is very young. An aunt has been watching her, but now, at the age of 5, the aunt dumps Heidi on her grandfather. The alm uncle is a recluse at the top of an Alp mountain. The only person he sees daily is Peter, the goatherd. He goes down to the village about once a week to sell his goods and buy what he needs. But he keeps to himself. How is this man supposed to care for a 5-year-old girl, even if she is his granddaughter?

He puts together a make shift bed in the loft. He feeds her the same as he eats. And each summer day he packs her a lunch to share and sends her up the mountain with Peter and the goats. Heidi thrives. She soon winds her way into Grandfather’s and Peter’s hearts. She is natural and joyous. When Peter talks about his own family she has to go down the mountain to meet them, especially the Grandmother. Heidi spends time keeping the Grandmother company as well as playing up on the mountain.

When she is 8 her aunt returns. The woman knows of a family in Frankfurt that needs a young companion for a widower’s crippled daughter. Heidi is dragged off before she knows what is happening. She accompanies her aunt because of the promise to be able to bring back food for the Grandmother. Heidi doesn’t realize she will have to stay in Frankfurt.

Clara is a lonely girl in her wheelchair. At first her governess won’t accept Heidi. Clara is immediately drawn to the mountain girl. Clara’s father permits her to stay despite the governess’ feelings. Heidi is sad to be away from Grandfather, Peter, and the Grandmother. Yet she grows to love Clara and begins to learn in classes. Her biggest accomplishment is learning to read. She hides her homesickness from Clara.

This classic is over 100 years old. The spirit and love Heidi has is timeless. Heidi is sweet – sugary sweet and unbelievable in this day. Spyri doesn’t ignore other emotions – there is jealousy, gossip, and spite throughout the story. Heidi’s personality overcomes it; she believes the best of people until they themselves also believe it. But in order for American children over the age of 8 to appreciate this novel, the language needs to be modernized. Although my experience is limited to American children, I would guess children in any technologically advanced country would be the same.

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