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*****= An all-time favorite
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by Johanna Spyri

Reviewed October 15, 2002.
Many different editions available.  First published in 1881.  304 pages.
Available at Sembach Library (JF SPY).

I first read and loved Heidi when I was in early elementary school and read it several more times as a girl.  This time, I reread it because the book Storybook Travels made me want to go visit Heidi’s Alp in Switzerland.

I have to admit that Heidi is a little on the preachy side and talks down to the reader a little bit, though it’s mostly just the fault of the old-fashioned style.  I had to take a few breaks when reading it, but as long as I did that, I still thoroughly enjoyed it.

I wouldn’t read the book to a teen, but I think that little girls would still love this tale.  Heidi first comes to the Alp when she is five years old to live with her Grandfather, the Alm-Uncle, a bitter old man.  Heidi’s sweet innocence transforms the old man and puts love in his heart.  Then Heidi is taken away again, to be an invalid child’s companion in Frankfurt.

Heidi pines away without her mountains and her grandfather.  She doesn’t understand the strict rules of the household where she stays.  Of course, it all comes out beautifully happy in the end, and she gets to go back to her mountain.

If you’ve seen the Shirley Temple or Disney versions, you might not realize that this is a very Christian story.  Heidi comforts an old grandmother by reading hymns to her.  When her prayer of going home to the mountains is not answered immediately, she is told that God was waiting to give her something even better.  When the time comes, she wholeheartedly agrees with this perspective.  She shares this message with her grandfather and changes his heart.  Not a bad message for me to be reading when I found out that we might not get to stay in Germany as long as we’d like to.

As a postscript, yesterday my family and I did get to visit Heidi’s Alp in Switzerland.  It was incredibly beautiful with the Autumn trees glowing bright colors in the sunshine.  I was amazed at the many different nationalities among the tourists there and in the guest book.  Heidi is truly a book loved all over the world.

Read this book to a young girl before she outgrows it!

Copyright © 2003 Sondra Eklund.  All rights reserved.

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