Book Review: Heidi by Johanna Spyri

The last six months I have been re-reading my favorite books from my childhood. It has been a wonderful stroll through my youthful memories and, because I read most of these books to my children, I’m remembering those times as well. I recommend the practice to anyone with fond recollection of childhood books.

I want to share Heidi with you. Here is the cover I remember from my childhood and the copy I bought this year. What a difference in the covers but, good news, the story is still the same.


This is the story of a little orphaned girl, Heidi, who has been raised by her Aunt Detie.  As the story opens Heidi and Aunt Detie are on their way  up to the top of a Swiss mountain. Heidi must now live with her grandfather. Aunt Detie can no longer take care of her as she has a job with an important family in Frankfurt. 

At five-years-old Heidi is a bubbly and kind little girl. It doesn’t bother her that Grandfather is grumpy and not liked in the village or that he lives in a hut and there is no extra bed or chair for her.  This spirited little girl wins him over. She also makes friends with Peter, the boy who takes care of the goats and with Grannie, a blind neighbor.

Heidi and Grandfather settle in and make it a happy and pleasant home in the Alps. They become very attached to each other. It’s been two years but one day Aunt Detie shows up with a new plan.

Detie takes Heidi back with her for a “visit” to Frankfurt. She has secured a place for Heidi as a companion to the invalid daughter of a very rich man. Clara is confined to a wheelchair, is taught by a private tutor, but she has no friends her age. Heidi is just what Clara needs.

On this year long visit Heidi learns to read and write. She looks forward to the day she can read to Grannie. Although Heidi and Clara are good friends, Heidi is very homesick. Her health begins to fail and Clara’s doctor suggests she return to the Alps.

Once back in the Alps Heidi gains back her health, she teaches Peter to read and write. Grandfather is reconciled with the people in the village, and Clara comes for a visit. Yes, things turn out okay and everyone lives happily ever after. This is probably where I first started my love for the happily-ever-after stories. 

johanna1About the author: Johanna Spyri (1827-1901) was born in a Swiss village overlooking the Lake of Zurich and with stunning views of the Alps. Johanna’s father was the local doctor and their home was the centre of cultural activity and the root of her love of books. Johanna lived in Zurich and stayed on after her marriage and for the rest of her life. Although Johanna’s childhood was happy she faced great sadness when her only son died at the age of twenty-nine and her husband died the same year. Heidi is often thought to be Johanna Spyri’s first book but she had in fact already written widely for both children and adults. Heidi became so famous that everything else was forgotten. It was translated into English soon after it was first published in 1880.

I read Heidi for the Childhood Favourites Reading Challenge. One more book (Little Women) to go before the June 21st deadline. I make it. I saved the best for last.


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9 Responses to Book Review: Heidi by Johanna Spyri

  1. Cerrin says:

    I dont remember this book. I think I may have to get it and read it. I remember the little house book most of all. And the bedtime stories. But my favorite is the book of poems I still have. I will have to pull it out for you to read when you get here…NEXT month lol

  2. I loved Heidi, but I remember the Shirley Temple version more than the book. My husband has no idea what the story is about, but knows Heidi well, from the 1968 football incident (described by Wikipedia: In professional American football, the Heidi Game (often referred to, facetiously, as the “Heidi Bowl”) refers to a famous American Football League (AFL) game between the New York Jets and the Oakland Raiders, played on November 17, 1968 in Oakland, California. This game is memorable largely as the result of a decision by the NBC television network to terminate the broadcast in the Eastern and Central time zones with 65 seconds left to play in the game in favor of broadcasting a pre-scheduled airing of Heidi, a new made-for-TV version of the classic children’s story. With the Jets leading 32-29 with only 65 seconds left in the game, NBC programmers, eager to maintain their evening schedule, switched off the ostensibly-decided game. However, the Raiders came back and scored 14 points, winning 43-32. Because of NBC’s decision, no fan following the match on TV was able to see Oakland’s comeback live. The complaints to the network indicated a new height of popularity for the game in the United States.)

    What a fun idea to re-read all these old books!

  3. I have never read Heidi. It is books like this that I really feel I should read. Thank you for reminding me about it. Good luck with the rest of your challenge.

  4. I read this book when I was little, but I think I read the Great Illustrated Classics version. It’s sort of sad that most of my knowledge of the classics comes from those or from Wishbone 🙂

  5. My fourth grade teacher read this book aloud to our class. I always looked forward to the end of recess, because the next class was English and she would read a chapter of Heidi before getting into our curriculum.

  6. Belle says:

    I loved Heidi when I was little. It’s been so long since I’ve read it. It was always up there with the other books from my childhood, although for some reason I never re-read it much, not the way I did Anne of Green Gables or the Betsy & Tacy series.

  7. I remember the cartoon; the part I remember most in the cartoon movie is Clara standing up and learning to walk. That was lovely. I have never read the book, though – I wonder if that happened in the book too?

  8. Lizzie says:

    I have to say I don’t like that new cover! The old one is better, in my own opinion. A few comments about the comments! Like Belle, I re-read Betsy-Tacy — LOVE those books! And the first comment about the football game just made me laugh, because I remember it so clearly. (I would have been on the side of watching the movie, by the way.) I just recently read about that incident, in fact, because it’s included in a new book about big-time sports mistakes: What Were They Thinking? “Brainless Blunders that Changed Sports History.” It’s a quite fun book for both hard-core and casual sports fans. Everyone likes to read about the mistakes that happen, after all! It covers all sports, took, not just football. (The Tonya Harding-Nancy Kerrigan skating debacle is in there…)

    Happy reading!

  9. Rosalie says:

    I too read this book when I was younger. I started out with a cartoon, then got into an illustrated version, then a simplified one, then finally the original classic! I have to say though, no matther how many times I read it, I still love the story more as ever and it never gets boring.

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