#38 Johanna Spyri and Heidi

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My life has been greatly influenced by Johanna Spyri and the character she created, Heidi.

I cannot separate them.

I cannot separate them, even, from the book that brought them into my life. I have it here in front of me. The cover has illustrations from other children’s books – Alice in Wonderland, Treasure Island, Pinocchio – in many colors over a gold background. A large blue rectangle in the upper left hand corner displays the title in bold white upper-case letters. The binding is torn and the edges of the pages are discolored. Inside, there is only one color illustration, at the front. There are a very few black and white pictures at the ends of some chapters. Some child wrote “T e e” in pencil on the page that lists the contents; lines in red ink frame the word “HEIDI” on the title page. On the last page, in a childish scrawl in blue ink, I wrote, “A very very good book!” My name is written in cursive on the top right hand corner of the first page, just inside the cover. The “Y” in Cindy has a curled flourish at the end of the tail and the “G” in Ricksgers looks much more like a “Q”. The entire signature looks a little wobbly. I had just turned ten-years-old when I wrote it.

I received the book from my mother and father, for my tenth birthday.

I was an early reader, and enjoyed books, but had never owned one all to myself.

I don’t know if I’d ever read a chapter book before.

Heidi was sassy, smart and kind. She loved animals and the outdoors. She was not intimidated by her gruff Grandfather.

I fell in love with the mountains and the meadows and the wind in the treetops; with Meadow Nuncle, his cabin and workshop, and with the goats. I cried when Heidi was sent to the city, and suffered through all of the horrors of loneliness, confusion and sadness with her. I despised Miss Rottenmeier and pitied little Clara. I rejoiced when Heidi was able to return to her mountain home and read with interest how her new knowledge and worldliness improved the lives of those around her.

I remember the feeling of wonderment, that words on a page had such power over my emotions.

I wonder at it still, though I’ve learned to expect it.

This was the beginning of a lifelong love of books and reading, that has enriched my life beyond measure.

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12 responses »

  1. Cindy, another wonderful post! Heidi was one of the first books I owned, too, probably at about the same age. (Mine was a paperback copy bought while we were on a trip to visit my grandparents in Detroit.) I think that by the time I read the book, I had already fallen in love with the Shirley Temple movie. Your blog makes me want to reread the book. I wonder if I can get Jordyn interested…

    • Thanks, Kate…I have re-read this book a few times over the years. I still enjoy it, even through the jaded eyes of age and experience. It always brings back lots of good memories of that magical feeling when first discovering books. I must say, I haven’t ever had much luck getting my children, nieces and others interested in some of the books that were most special to me. My daughters and I did read all of the “Little House” books by Laura Ingalls Wilder, one chapter a night, each night before bed.

  2. Beautiful Cindy! A beautiful post. I can see ho wspecial the book and the story are to you. And I probably read it around the same age, 10 – 11, the othe rbook I emember from that time is Ballet Shoes, but the story of Hedi has stayed with me.

    • I love Heidi for so many reasons! The setting, the characters, the fact that it was my own book…mostly because it was my first experience of being totally immersed and enthralled by a book. It seemed like magic; I so clearly remember the feeling! The other, for me, was Little Women, and then on to all of that series. Thanks, Claire, for reading, and for your comments!

  3. Cindy, we have something else in common. Heidi is the first “real” big kids book that I remember reading at about age 8 or 9. I LOVED it. It even influenced a decision to travel to Switzerland as an exchange student at age 17. Glad that you shared your passion for this book.

  4. You guys are so refined and cultured. I don’t think I ever read the book Heidi, although I think I saw the movie as a child. My inspirations came from Harriet The Spy and Ramona The Pest. Guess that explains a lot.

    • Well, I feel now like I missed something, having never read Harriet the Spy or Ramona the Pest! Damn Catholic School up-bringing! Seriously, any book that instills a love of reading is a wonderful book, I think. My grandsons have been “grabbed” by Harry Potter, Diary of a Wimpy Kid, and Captain Underpants. More power to them all! Thanks for your comment, Sara!

  5. That was lovely. My own favorite was Rebecca of Sunnybrook Farm. Eventually I moved on to Nancy Drew but I’m always thankful for those authors. I wish someone had written something to capture the attention of my boys like these books did for me.

    • I know…that magical feeling when a book grabs you, lets you know that there’s a wide world of people and places and experiences out there, makes you feel that anything is possible…I wish that for every child. To this day, I feel like I can learn anything, if I can just find the right book to teach me. Thanks, Tammy, for your comment!

  6. This was one of my early favorites, as well, and strangely I was just thinking about it the other day. Another favorite was, of course, Little Women…and Anne of Green Gables! I really wish I’d kept a list of all the books I read. And I have such fond memories of the public library children’s room.

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