Heidi is iconic. Classic. Everybody’s read it (or so it would seem). When I say “Heidi,” don’t you just see the sides of the Swiss Alps, velvety green and dotted with sheep, unrolling before our sure-footed heroine? She’s darling, that Heidi, with the sun gleaming upon her golden curls . . .
But wait! What’s that, you say? I’m thinking of Shirley Temple in the movie adaptation? Well, my stars. You’re right.
Now, some of you remember this book fondly, and are just wasting away with impatience while you wait for your children to reach a suitable age for reading it. I, on the other hand, had forgotten about Heidi (and her black curls) completely, somewhere between childhood and motherhood. But now, I get to discover her anew, and oh, what a joy that is!
The story of Heidi, like that of Joseph in the Bible, takes a strange route to a happy ending, and in doing so, shows a God who cares deeply about the softest prayer, even when he may not—at first—seem to respond.
Like so many children in classic literature, Heidi is an orphan sent to live with a suspect guardian. His story fills the first pages, and may be a little intense for a young reader at first, but press on! Read carefully, if you must, but do not stop! The story takes some unlikely turns but does not fail to deliver.
I dare not tell you more of the plot, for fear of treading on its well-spun threads, but I will leave you with this:
“Oh, how glad I am that God did not let me have at once all I prayed and wept for! And now I shall always pray to God as she told me, and always thank Him, and when He does not do anything I ask for I shall think to myself…God, I am sure, is going to do something better still.”
One last thing: have you seen those Puffin editions of children’s classics (pictured above)? I adore them, and this is why: they’ve taken a great cast of children’s classics, from George MacDonald to Shakespeare, packaged them well, and priced them at five dollars each.
I’ve started collecting them, because my oldest reads and rereads and thumbs through her favorite books endlessly, and those thrifty, secondhand copies I had originally purchased are now swathed in box tape or, simply put, gone (and my youngest is only now taking an interest in chapter books). I’m not a paid spokesperson for Puffin, I promise: I just really, really like these pint-sized editions of the classics, and I thought you might like them, too.
Johanna Spyri (1880)