A Book for Grandparents and Switzerland

Heidi and Peter at Heidiland
Heidi and Peter at Heidiland

Destination: Switzerland

Book: Heidi by Johanna Spyri

My friend Donna L. Hull, a fellow blogger, reminded me that September 13 is Grandparent’s Day.

My mind, of course, went straight to books that grandparents might use to introduce their grandchildren (or parents their 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 illustrations supplemented by black and white drawings.  And the best news: You can still find them.*

I think Heidi movies must have been made nearly every year , including an early one starring Shirley Temple, that doesn’t seem to go near the mountains. If you believe Amazon.com reviews, the 2005 movie starring Max Van Sydow 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.)

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About Vera Marie Badertscher

A freelance writer who loves to travel. When she is not traveling she is reading about travel. When she is not reading or traveling, she is sharing with the readers of A Traveler's Library, or recreating her family's past at Ancestors In Aprons . She has written for Reel Life With Jane, Life is a Trip and other websites. Also co-author of a biography, Quincy Tahoma, The Life and Legacy of a Navajo Artist. Contact Vera Marie by e-mail.

14 thoughts on “A Book for Grandparents and Switzerland

    1. Jennifer: I probably saw the Shirley Temple article, but after researching this post, would like to try the Max Van Sydow recommended by nearly everybody on Amazon. I’ll have to see if Netflix has it.

  1. Oh, Heidi. I used to love that book when I was young – and have forgotten all about it! No daughters (or grandchildren, for that matter) to share it with. Perhaps some day a grandaughter (hope my still-single sons are listening!!)

  2. I had the same reaction when I went to Switzerland for the first time!

    Thanks for this reminder to get my granddaughter a copy. It may be old, but so what? The story line is obviously still powerful.

    1. I am so glad to see several readers share my love for Heidi. I hope you’ll share this blog post with others who might also be Heidi/Switzerland fans.

  3. I loved Heidi too and used to pretend I was drinking the warm goat’s milk. I would love to go to Switzerland and see the “Heidi Trail”. I had no idea the book was THAT old!

  4. This looks like a great book for parents to read with children. Thanks for bringing it to my attention!
    .-= Jennifer Haupt´s last blog ..Finding Faith in Everyday Life =-.

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