Friday, January 10, 2020

Discussion 1 ~ Heidi Read-Along

Welcome to the first discussion of the Heidi read-along! If this is the first you've heard of the read-along, you can view the schedule in this invitation post.

Today we'll be discussing chapters 1-8. If you've already read these chapters, you can share your thoughts in the comments section below or in your own post. (Feel free to use the image above, linking back to the Heidi read-along tag.) If you still need to catch up on the reading, you're welcome to check in when you're ready. :) We're happy to have you join us whenever you can!

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Heidi: Chapters 1-8

Discussion format: your favorite quotes, general impressions, and three questions to answer for each week's reading

Favorite Quotes*
  • "The sun does it. When he says good night to the mountains, he sends to them his most beautiful rays so that they may not forget him until he comes back again in the morning."
  • "More attractive than all else to Heidi on such windy days was the roaring and rushing in the three old fir trees behind the hut. Wherever she happened to be, she had to run to them every little while, for nothing was so fascinating and wonderful as this deep, mysterious sound up in the treetops."
  • "After many long years a joy had come into the blind grandmother's dreary life, and her days were no more long and dark; for now she always had something pleasant to look forward to."
  • "Sebastian was standing outside the door and had to stop laughing before he could enter the room again. While he was serving Heidi, he had noticed a little cat's head peeping out of her pocket, and when it began to meow he could hardly contain himself long enough to set his tray on the table." 

General Impressions

I think I'm finding this story to be so much sweeter and more engaging than I might have expected! Heidi's character is adorable and difficult to resist, almost with an Anne of Green Gables quality to her given a description like this: "Heidi was never unhappy, for she always found something about her to enjoy" (page 42 in my copy). She finds so much pleasure in nature and the goats and discovering new things and watching her grandfather work and in simple conversations with an older woman. Even when she ends up in completely foreign-to-her situations, she is quite resilient and brave and quick to find something to delight in.

It's surprising how young she is in these chapters. It's hard to imagine a five-year-old climbing up a mountainside! But her innocence is so sweet.

I love how her grandfather is quick to take to her and praise her, and how he watches out for her even while letting her play and grow in independence.

I'm a little uncertain still about Peter. I like him, but he also has a selfish streak (which, given his youth and circumstances, isn't surprising!). Still, I enjoyed seeing his friendship with Heidi and her grandfather bloom.

I love Peter's grandmother and the way she revels in Heidi's visits and defends her grandfather. It's so, so sad when Heidi is forced to leave... Ugh, Aunt Dete! Driven by guilt and duty, I suppose, but if only she actually loved Heidi. I hate that she gives Heidi away, then takes her away again when she sees fit, basically deceiving the poor little girl. :(

As for Heidi's new situation as companion to Klara, I'm torn. I'm glad Heidi has new friends like Klara and Sebastian. Sebastian is pretty awesome, haha! I loved when he paid the boy from the street to play his organ for the girls and cause a scene. And the way he takes care of the kittens and saves Heidi's hat from being thrown away—yep, I like him! But I'm also sad for Heidi, being so young and feeling homesick and trapped.

I'm curious to see where the next chapters take Heidi...

A snowy illustration seems fitting for this season!

Discussion Questions

Answer any or all three of these questions in the comments section or in your own blog post.

1. Which character ended up surprising you most in these first eight chapters?

2. Do you think you would enjoy living the way Heidi's grandfather does? What would you like or dislike about that kind of life and home?

3. Which scene have you found most touching so far? Most amusing?

Join us next Friday for our second discussion! 
(Chapters 9-13)

*Johanna Spyri, Heidi, trans. Helen B. Dole (New York: Grosset and Dunlap, 1945), 40, 42, 55, 94-95.


Ginette B said...

I'm not reading along as I have read Heidi numerous times already (it's pretty much a staple in my part of the world), but wanted to comment on how interesting it is to me to look at this book from your point of view and see what you find remarkable in it.

Regarding Aunt Dete, I'm afraid she was a victim as well as an 'offender' - she couldn't keep Heidi due to her living circumstances, and so she had to give her away, and she takes her away from the grandfather again when she's ordered to do so. I imagine she mentioned to the Sesemanns that she has a niece in Switzerland, and in a way she tries to help her out of what she thinks are miserable circumstances (life with the grandfather surely has its inconveniences, and in Frankfurt, Heidi is supposed to receive some education so she could make a living later on that's better than being someone's maid).

My heart goes out to Heidi when she has to go to Frankfurt. I know both places - Frankfurt and the Bad Ragaz area where the Swiss scenes are set - and while the former certainly has become even bigger and more grey, it already was a huge contrast to the green pastures of the Swiss Alps back in Spyri's times. It's a dramatic change for Heidi, and I feel for her.

I also feel for Klara. She's basically lonely and gets mollycoddled in a way that's not good for her.

I look forward to reading more about your (and everybody's) impressions.

Out of interest, is Heidi the only Johanna Spyri book that you can get in English?

Julie said...

Love the quotes you chose! I find it interesting to read others' favorite quotes. You pick out descriptive quotes for the most part and I tend to go for the dialogue quotes. ha! Just an observation. Love your thoughts on the book so far. I guess I had forgotten that Peter is a bit on the "wild" side. And seeing him want to be so cruel to one of the little goats made me a bit disgruntled. I think that he gains some humanity after he grows up a little :)I'm enjoying the story. Here is my post on my blog:

Oh and Ginette, I looked up the author and there looks to be several books by her that are in English. I ordered them from Amazon because they are free for the Kindle. :)

Amber Holcomb said...


I'm so glad you stopped by to comment! Happy to have you follow along with the read-along and our thoughts. :) And it's great to hear your perspective on the story too!

Those are good points about Aunt Dete. Her life couldn't have been easy either, and she had some difficult decisions to make regarding Heidi's future!

I guess what bothers me most is her attitude about it all, the way she treats Heidi so unkindly and drags her around with little thought to her feelings. It's probably valid to think that if she had stopped to let Heidi say goodbye to the grandmother, she never would have gotten her to leave the mountain...but at the same time, she basically deceived Heidi instead into thinking she could come home whenever she wanted, which was clearly not the case. She was harsh with the little girl, both in bringing her to the mountain and in taking her from her grandfather and friends. :( I'm not sure if she would have had a chance to visit Heidi in either situation, but it seems pretty clear that she simply wanted the girl off her hands rather than to make sure she was well taken care of. At least that's how it seems to me!

But there are definitely a lot of dynamics at play here, lots of characters who all have their own feelings and decisions to make, and that's good to remember! And definitely some sad circumstances for both Heidi and Klara. It seems a little difficult to tell at this point whether or not she and Heidi are truly friends, but I'm glad they get along well and hope that it ends up being a friendship that blesses both of them. :)

As Julie noted, it looks like there are other stories by this author that are available in English! Do you have a favorite besides Heidi?

Thank you again for your thoughtful comment and for checking out this post!


Amber Holcomb said...


That's so true! I do like those lovely, descriptive quotes. ;) And it's always fun to read your thoughts on the dialogue in a book!

I like the thought of getting to know Peter's character as he matures. :) Agreed that he has a "wild" streak at the beginning of the story!

So glad you're enjoying re-reading this book; will plan to comment on your post shortly!


Ginette B said...

I have read a number of Spyri's stories during my childhood but personally only own two collections of stories - one contains three, the other two stories, each of them around 100-150 pages or so. Some of them have sequels that I have never read. One of my favourites is about the children of the 'Lesa-Hof' (Lesa being the surname of the family that's described) - there are two parts, but I have only read the first of them (want to get the second part some time, too, though). It's about a boy - Vincent - whose father runs a farm in the Swiss Alps and who thinks his son is a dreamer - the son's head is full of music and songs, and he forgets his duties over these. In order to ground / earth him and understand that dreams and music won't feed you, he sends his son away to work on his cousin's farm. The original title is 'Einer vom Hause Lesa'. I got this book as a child, it was printed in old German fracture that I couldn't read... I learnt to read it very quickly :-)

Carissa said...

I'm enjoying re reading Heidi as an adult and looking at it from an adult point of view. Here's my post:

Amber Holcomb said...


Those sound like neat collections! And I love that you learned to read an older German and could enjoy stories like Einer vom Hause Lesa in that language! :) Based on your description and the name, I'm wondering if maybe that story is Vinzi: A Story of the Swiss Alps in English? (Here's the Project Gutenberg link.)

Thanks so much for sharing your experiences with this author, and for giving us a recommendation!


Amber Holcomb said...


Yay! I'm so glad to hear it. :) Will come comment on your post!


Ginette B said...

Yes, Amber, that's it! It came in one volume with 'Artur and Squirrel'. It's the font that's different, not so much the language - for an example, you might want to look here:
That was rather difficult for me to decipher when I had just managed to master regular print as a 7 y.o.!

Amber Holcomb said...


Awesome! :D

And oh, that's completely understandable that it would be trickier to read that font, especially at such a young age!! That would take some work at any age, I'd imagine. But that's so neat you persevered and were able not only to read the stories but to truly enjoy them. :)


MovieCritic said...

Yes, Peter is a bit selfish. I love every fictional character named Peter (pretty much) so I have soft spot for him and tend overlook that. :)

I'm so glad that you like Sebastian, too! I love when he's serving Heidi and she doesn't know what to do.

My post is finally up. I'm sorry, I meant to have it up two days ago!

I'm glad that you are able to finally read this and that you included all of us!

Amber Holcomb said...


Hehe, I can understand having a soft spot for Peter! As I've kept reading, he still hasn't quite won me over... But there's still time. ;) Mostly, I'm probably wanting more maturity from him than is warranted for his young character. After all, it's not surprising that a boy his age would think and act the way he does!

Sebastian is such a fun character! And his interactions with Heidi are the best. :)

I hope to comment on your post soon! Thank you so much for joining us in reading Heidi! I'm really glad I'm finally reading this too. :) It's so sweet!