Evalina and I finished reading Heidi last week, and what a lovely book it was!
The Story: This classic story is about Heidi, a little girl with a wonderful spunk and spirit, who brings joy to the lives of many around her. She lives in a cottage on the Alm, in Switzerland, with her grandfather. She spends time with goats (and the young goatherd), among the wildflowers and the majestic mountains. When she is brought to live with an invalid girl in Germany, she learns just how much the Alm means to her. Though she misses her home terribly (in fact, getting literally homesick, unable to eat because she longs for her mountain home so...), she makes friends with the young girl of the household, Klara, and when she has returned to the mountain hut, Klara and her family visits and learns to understand Heidi so much more.
The Good: I would love to be friends with Heidi. She is truly caring, always looking out for Peter the Goatherd's grandmother, and her friend, Klara, and her grandfather ... she has a wonderful light that just shines. She helped to turn her grandfather from (what some saw as) a crotchety old man to be frightened of into a pillar of the community. She helps Klara see herself as more than a poor girl, stuck in a wheelchair for the rest of her life. She makes sure that the Grandmother has soft rolls and cakes and a soft bed to keep her comfortable in her house - and helps to motivate her Grandfather to fix up the Grandmother's drafty house. She brings happiness into the life of the kind doctor, who lost his own daughter. She is also clever as a whip, and loves the beauty around her in the Swiss mountains.
The Bad: I found the religious aspects of the book to be a bit heavy handed sometimes (but, I am not religious). Klara's grandmother teaches Heidi to read, and basically converts her to Christianity. Thereafter, every time something wonderful happens, it is all very religiously leaning... which, again, is not something I generally enjoy. Interestingly, and this is not bad, just interesting... Heidi is not the "Heidi" you might think of from the old movie. She has short black, curly hair, not long blonde hair done up in a braided crown. Just funny, that's all. Thank you, Shirley Temple!
The Verdict: This is a true classic and I cannot believe that I never read it as a child... it's one of those books that you think you've read until you start reading it. Absolutely recommended. If you are not religious, you might have to have some conversations about the religious aspects of this book (which Evalina and I have already had, while reading the Little House series in particular). I totally loved this book. It had humor and heart and wonderful descriptions. I want to go to Switzerland now. I can't find recommended reading level on Amazon for it, but I don't know that Evalina would have read it all on her own ... particularly, some of the names are more difficult for the non-German speaking reader. Still, she truly enjoyed it.