Saturday, January 22, 2011

Heidi Redux

and a taste of things to come...

just finished re-reading Heidi, the childhood classic by Johanna Spyri. I have great admiration for Spyri, who wrote more than 25 books in her lifetime (1827 - 1901). I haven't read her other work, but it's not surprising Heidi surfaced above the rest. The protagonist's resolute character withstands abandonment, abduction and neglect. She remains kind and generous to all the other characters, careless of the fact that most of them are motivated by naked selfishness. 

While the underlying message of Heidi is overtly preachy, Spyri is a master of how to propel a plot. She also is adept at transporting the reader to another time and place. Her vivid descriptions of the Swiss alps remind me of my visit to Zermatt the summer I was sixteen. I lay on the grassy mountainside, surrounded by dainty wildflowers (regretfully, I may have crushed a few). It's easy to imagine Peter was just around the next peak, his goats grazing on their favorite meadow.

Check back soon...

Coming up, a wonderful interview with American painter Wendell Minor, who has illustrated more than 2,000 books and book covers, including the Harper Lee classic, To Kill A Mockingbird. Minor shares his insights on the inspiration behind the art for his most recent picture book, The Last Train, by Gordon Titcomb (A Neal Porter Book, Roaring Book Press/MacMillan Publishers).

Also soon, my colleague, Lupe Fernandez, of The Pen & Ink blog drops in to offer a guest's  POV on the perils of procrastination - or non-writing activities, as he calls it.

In the meantime, do share your thoughts - on Heidi, and other things. We have a discussion going on.


The Pen and Ink Blogspot said...

When I think of the Swiss Alps, I recall the time I bought a Swiss Knife on Swiss Air and the Swiss Flight Attendant cut his Swiss hand.

Florence Minor said...

The book HEIDI changed my life.

When my second children’s book, “If You Were a Penguin” (illustrated, not surprisingly, by my husband Wendell Minor) was selected by PA as their “one book” in 2009, I was asked to send my bio for their publicity purposes. In writing about my rather circuitous route from college graduate to film editor to publishing person, I reflected on my early years as a child who loved to read, and to write. Two books that have always remained near and dear to me are “Babar” and “Heidi,” and it was upon writing about “Heidi” that I realized, for the first time, how instrumental that book was in my growing fascination with Switzerland as a young adult. I had a poster of Zermatt on my bedroom wall, and was determined to visit that beautiful country. I spent the entire summer following college graduation hitch-hiking through Europe, and will never forget my time in Zermatt, Grindlewald, and more places in Switzerland than I could mention. I attribute much of my personal growth to the three summers I spent in Europe … all because of reading “Heidi.” I recently found a 1913 edition of the book, and am looking forward to re-reading it, all these years later. Children’s books can, and DO change lives!

Megan Frances Abrahams said...

Thank you, Swiss. It's a circuitous time travel ride from Heidi's hut in the mountains to a Swiss Air flight.

Megan Frances Abrahams said...

Thanks for commenting, Florence. How fascinating that Heidi played such a pivotal role in your formative years, and so interesting to learn more about your background.

Two books that touched me deeply growing up, were Frances Hodgson Burnett's "The Little Princess" and Joan Aiken's "The Wolves of Willoughby Chase," both of which I read over and over again. I agree that children's books can change lives. For me, they were, and still are, a sanctuary of the imagination. I love the Babar books too.
And, "If You Were A Penguin" is delightful, by the way.

The Pen and Ink Blogspot said...

Alas, for all my Swissness, I never set foot on the Alps.
Matterhorn Mexican

Lee Rae said...

I just remembered, I was going to read Heidi over the holidays. I didn’t do it, too much family and not enough time. Drat!

Mr. Fernandez will be dropping in with a POV? Interesting.

Julie Musil said...

I haven't read Heidi! Isn't that horrible? When I think of the Swiss Alps I think of The Sound of Music, one of my favorites.

I look forward to the post on procrastination!

Lee Rae said...

A procrastinator interviewing a procrastinator about procrastination. I have a feeling we will be waiting for that interview for a very long time.

Megan Frances Abrahams said...

Yes, Lee Rae, the gentle bloggers of Pen & Ink invited me to write a guest post and I asked them to contribute one here in return. I'm sure it will be a fun and rewarding exchange for all involved.

I loved the Sound of Music too, Julie. I actually thought of it while reading Heidi. The book reminded me of the mountain flower, edelweiss and the song from the movie.

And Lee Rae, could you be making fun of us? (I admit you have good reason to). All I can say is, we're very well-intentioned so please don't give up on us!