Why Heidi Is Special to Me

20893529Some unexpected Thanksgiving guests messed up my reading plans for the long weekend a little bit. But no matter; some of my books might have had to take a backseat, but there was still plenty of time for gratitude and reflection. Earlier this month, Dolce Bellezza wrote about Johanna Spyri’s Heidi. It was a beautiful post that gave me goosebumps, and I am thankful that it reminded me of the special edition I have of this book.

Actually, I have two editions of the book. One is the Puffin in Bloom edition, and the cover just makes me happy. I also like it because it refers to Heidi as “she.” The other is a special, abridged 1953 edition that I got from my grandmother, who thought the girl on the cover looked just like me. One might argue over that, but I love everything about this book except that the outdated German refers to Heidi as “it.”


In 1952, a movie version of Heidi came out in Germany, which was very successful. A year later, the supermarket chain Edeka published this particular edition of the book.


The book came with a foreword from the movie’s director and little greetings from some of the actors and actresses. It came with lots of whimsical illustrations. But most importantly, it came with blank spaces.


As a marketing ploy, the supermarket chain offered its store-brand products with numbered pictures that children could collect and glue into the book. The pictures are all stills from the movie.


My grandmother said that for months, she didn’t have to badger my father and aunt into drinking their milk. They were so eager to collect all the pictures that they were happy to consume whatever my grandmother put in front of them, just so that she would have to go back to the store and buy more products with pictures for the book. (Some of the pictures are missing, and I remember scolding my father for not drinking enough milk to collect them all when I received the book.)

My grandmother also told me that my grandfather would secretly re-glue the pictures, because he couldn’t stand it when my father glued them in crooked. That makes me smile, because my father would have done exactly the same thing, if I had glued the pictures in crooked.

It is hard to believe that this book is now over 60 years old. For a mere marketing piece, it has held up remarkably well. It doesn’t matter that some of the pictures are missing; the imperfection makes it perfect to me. It is a wonderful reminder of both my father and my grandmother. And I had a fun time looking through the book with the kids this Thanksgiving weekend. I got to tell them stories of their grandfather and great-grandparents, all of whom they have never met. I thought it was perfect family time, and thankfully, the kids didn’t disagree.



  1. What a beautiful post! I love the pictures of the older edition; I like the older edition, period. I bought the Puffin and was so disappointed despite the cheerful cover. When they translated Alm Uncle as Uncle Alp, I could go no farther. So glad we both read this for German Lit Month!

    • I can completely understand your disappointment with the changed translation. Particularly when it comes to names, new translations can be iffy. Since the Puffin edition is the only English edition I’ve ever read, it didn’t bother me. You are right, though, it was a great November read.

  2. It does sound like perfect family time. What a beautiful post!
    I think I said this on Dolce Belleza’s blog, but I will say it again – what I remember most about Heidi are the chunks of bread and cheese that Heidi and her grandfather eat at every meal (at least it seemed like every meal). Yum.

    • Haha, you’re right. We’ve been hiking in the Swiss Alps several times, and there are thankfully still so many places where I almost expect Heidi to come skipping around the corner. (Bread and cheese are a must on those trips!)

  3. I so enjoyed this post! What a wonderful edition to have, and so much more special for the stories behind it. Weren’t there many more fun toys, games, prizes, etc. when our parents were children? We’ve become so much more boring. Oh, and you were very cute, BTW, but I suppose you look a little older than that now — just like us all. πŸ˜‰

    • So often these days it’s quantity over quality, which is a shame. And there seem to be fewer toys that leave stuff to the imagination, too. That’s why I hoard “old things” like this book. πŸ™‚
      (And yes, there are some wrinkles and gray hair these days…)

  4. I love this post. Thank you so much for sharing such nice memories. I have to confess that I’ve never actually read Heidi, but your post makes me want to go out and get a copy right now!

  5. What a wonderful connection you and your family have to this book! Your story about your grandfather re-gluing the pictures reminds me very much of my father (who used to re-glue my science fair exhibits after I went to sleep!).

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