Book: Heidi by Johanna Spyri
My friend Donna L. Hull reminded me that September 13 is Grandparent’s Day. At her Baby Boomer adventure travel site, My Itchy Travel Feet, Donna is celebrating by telling Baby Boomers about trips they can take with their grandchildren.
My mind, of course, went straight to books that grandparents might use to introduce their grandchildren (or parents there children) to foreign lands…and what better book for grandchildren than Heidi, the classic children’s book about a girl and her grandfather, set in Switzerland.
Parts of this children’s book might be rough sledding for young readers, (it is rated for 9 to 12 year olds) but once the storyline sets Heidi free high in the Alps with grouchy old grandfather, playmate Peter and all those goats, imagination soars. As a child, I thought it would be a wonderful thing to be able to take a crust of bread and a piece of cheese and wander out on mountainsides of green grass and meadow flowers all day along with friendly goats. I could hear the sound of the bells, and almost taste the cheese. Although, it did rather stretch credulity that grandfather made that cheese right there in his mountain hut!
I learned from Heidi’s Grandfather that grouchy people sometimes are actually sad, and that if you give them enough time and try not to be annoying, they will eventually come around. Later I read something called Heidi Grows Up and that was okay, but growing up and getting married was not something I could relate to. Grouchy old grandparents, I could. And I learned from Heidi’s care of Clara, her crippled cousin, that compassion can conquer all.
When I finally traveled to Switzerland as an adult, I heard the bells echoing across the mountain meadows, bouncing off the cliff sides, and felt that I had been transformed into a little girl with braids and dirndl skirt in my beloved children’s book.
My parents gave me the lushly illustrated Illustrated Junior Library edition of Heidi when I was young, and I still treasure that book. These are beautiful books, hard cover, with gorgeous full page color illlustrations supplemented by black and white drawings, and the best news: You can still find them.*
And I think movies must have been made nearly every year of Heidi, including an early one starring Shirley Temple, that doesn’t seem to go near the mountains. If you believe Amazon.com reviews, the [amazonify]B000FFL2H0::text::::2005 movie starring Max Van Sydow[/amazonify] stays closest to the book, which would be a good thing, but you’ll have to report back to me, since I have not tested out any of the modern movies.
Switzerland‘s savvy tourism department aims to please tourists with images of Heidi-land, and you can follow the Heidi trail in the village of Maienfeld in the Graubündun, the home of Heidi.
I was shocked, while doing this research, to learn that the book, Heidi‘s Years of Wandering and Learning, (the full title) is 129 years old. (Let’s just keep that between ourselves, okay? Today’s children would never forgive us for foisting something that old on them.)
*Amazon.com‘s used book sellers have copies of the Illustrated Junior Classics edition. I also found it at Powell’s and Exodus, a Christian, home-schooling book seller. You can buy many other editions, including a paperback version of Illustrated Junior Classics, but for real book lovers, the hardback excels.