Children’s Lit: Heidi

I’ve recently discovered that I enjoy reading children’s books. Not the kind with pictures (although if there’s an actual child around to read to, I will totally read those) but the classic children’s books that we’ve kind of forgotten about. Peter Pan, Mary Poppins, A Little Princess, The Secret Garden etc.

There’s something so perfect about revisiting children’s books, a way to pretend like you’re not an adult for a few hours. I’m constantly surprised at how much it sucks to be an adult considering I wished away huge chunks of my childhood, wanting to be an adult so I could stay up as late as I wanted, eat delicious things and buy all the things. Turns out staying up late makes me really tired, I feel like crap when I eat all the nice things and I can’t buy all the things because all the things are expensive.

Evidently my husband knows this about me because for Valentine’s Day he got me the Puffin in Bloom books. These are the classic children’s books that Anne Rifle Bond of Rifle Paper Co. fame collaborated on. Little Women, Anne of Green Gables, A Little Princess and Heidi all got the most exquisite makeover and I lusted after them for months (if you don’t already know, she’s also worked on a 150th anniversary edition of Alice in Wonderland, so look for that in November) before they were gifted to me. Major brownie points for the husband.

Out of the bunch, the only one I hadn’t read was Johanna Spyri’s Heidi. This weekend I remedied that and devoured this sweet story in a sitting.


Heidi is an orphan who is delivered to the mountain hut of her grandfather when her aunt can’t look after her any longer. While the aunt goes off to a new job in Frankfurt, Heidi is left to charm her grandfather, who everyone calls Uncle Alp. Uncle Alp was once a big part of his community but long ago stopped caring what his neighbours thought of him and, embittered against God, he retires from village life altogether. He lives at the top of the mountain in a little hut with his goats and that’s the way he likes it. Until Heidi arrives and in her gentle way shows him that there’s more to the world.

Just when everyone gets used to this new way of living, with Heidi visiting Peter-the-goatherd’s grandmother as much as possible while she convinces her grandfather to start looking after his neighbours, everything changes. The aunt comes back and says that Heidi must come back to Frankfurt with her, that she has found a place for her with a wealthy family who is looking for a companion for their invalid daughter. Heidi is taken from everything that she loves to start a new life mostly alone.

The book is basically split into two parts – the first when she is taken to live with the family in Frankfurt and then after she finds her way back and changes the people she knows at home with what she’s learned in that strange other world. While away she learned to pray to God and tell Him all her troubles and to have faith that He will help her when He has decided she is ready. Perhaps a little evangelical for our modern sensibilities but I actually found it a really lovely little reminder that we can’t do everything ourselves. For some of us that means looking to a higher power, for others it means leaning on their families or their communities.

It’s a simple little story but sometimes that’s just what we need. I found Heidi’s desire to be helpful and good to be refreshing. I totally teared up reading this (happy tears) and I’ll definitely read this story again someday – until then this edition will look lovely on my shelves.

5 thoughts on “Children’s Lit: Heidi

  1. I never read the book, only watched it via mivie–I think Shirley Temle? I’ve started listening to children’s books as I drive around town. It’s lovely having a story read to you while driving off to the grown up job.

  2. First, I just have to say that I envy you your beautiful books, and maybe your husband, too. (you know I am kidding, though, right?)
    One thing that’s great about having kids is that you get to read lots of kids books. Sometimes I read them ahead of time to remind myself of how age appropriate they are, but usually I just read it along with them. Over the last ten years, I have read so many books I might not have re-visited if I hadn’t had kids. Some of my favourites have been all the Roald Dahl books, The Secret Garden, Little House on the Prairies, Harry Potter, Charlotte’s Web.
    But, we haven’t read Heidi. We have it, but it’s just not one of the books any of them picked out to read. What I remember most about Heidi is the chunks of cheese and bread that she and her grandfather ate for every meal. They always sounded so good.

    • hahahaha yes I know you’re kidding.
      I haven’t read any Roald Dahl in far too long. I should read Matilda again sometime soon. I love The Secret Garden but I ADORE A Little Princess.
      I should have mentioned the bread and cheese! And how excited everyone gets for white bread or some meat. I could really go for a picnic in the mountains with only bread and cheese right now.

      • Even now it seems like a luxury to buy a fresh loaf of bread and some local cheese, and break off hunks of them to eat. Mmm.

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