Heidi is written by Johanna Spyri. It was first published in 1880. The copy I read is the 2000 Aladdin Classics edition.
“Orphaned Heidi lives with her gruff but caring grandfather on the side of a Swiss mountain, where she befriends young Peter the goatherd. She leads an idyllic life, until she is forced to leave the mountain she has always known to go and live with a sickly girl in the city. Will Heidi ever see her grandfather again?”
What I Liked:
Just like Elizabeth Enright’s books, Heidi is one of the books I read over and over and loved when I was younger. I remember watching the Shirley Temple film, too. This is one of the classic children’s books that must be read since, you know, it’s classic. Having traveled to Switzerland, I perfectly understand Heidi’s longing for the mountains. Switzerland is gorgeous. And, just like Heidi, I much prefer the country over the city.
I loved the completely PC-free setting, dialogue, themes, etc. It does get a little bit preachy, but in a way that makes me like the book more because of the complete naturalness that flows from the preachiness, as if it was common for a book to include it (and it was, back then). It’s very straight-forward, and it’s not bad preaching, either.
Honestly, I think the Frankfurt part of the book is my favorite part. It’s much different than the first and last part of the book (which can get a little monotonous) and is also more humorous, at least in my opinion.
What I Didn’t Like:
There is virtually no characterization. Heidi is perfect. Rottenmeier is the conveniently nasty housekeeper. The rest of the characters just revolve around Heidi and are changed by her. Heidi actually annoyed me at times. It’s an old book, so I can’t really fault it as much as I would fault a contemporary book that has characters like the ones in Heidi (because some tropes were still fairly new back then as opposed to now). And I think Spyri is trying to teach children something through this book and the characters and not just necessarily trying to entertain them. But it’s something I thought I would mention, since character is something I normally pay attention to and comment on.
Recommended Age Range: 8+
Genre: Realistic, Children’s, Classic
“Let me be, child. I can’t see any better even in the light of the snow. I’m always in the dark.”
“Even in summer, Grannie?” Heidi persisted anxiously. ‘Surely you can see the sunshine and watch it say goodnight to the mountains and make them all red like fire. Can’t you?”
“No, child, nor that either. I shall never see them again.”
Heidi burst into tears. “Can’t anyone make you see?” she sobbed. “Isn’t there anyone who can?”
“I dream every night that I’m back with Grandfather and can hear the wind whistling through the fir trees. I know in my dream the stars must be shining brightly outside, and I get up quickly and open the door of the hut—and it’s so beautiful. But when I wake up I’m always still here in Frankfurt.” A lump came in her throat and she tried to swallow it.
“Have you a pain anywhere?” asked the doctor. “In your head or your back?”
“No, but I feel as though there’s a great stone in my throat.”
“As though you’d taken a large bit of something and can’t swallow it?”
Heidi shook her head. “No, as if I wanted to cry.”
Heidi, as a classic children’s book, should be read if you haven’t, but on this read-through I actually found the characters a bit tedious and annoying, Heidi especially. The parts of the book that get a little preachy are really quite refreshing to read, simply because it’s not something you find in books like this one nowadays. I gave it a 3 because I can’t reconcile the classic-ness of it with the complete boredom that I sometimes felt reading it, but I still love this book and hold it in a high position among children’s lit.
You can buy this book here: Heidi (Dover Children’s Evergreen Classics)