Tonight, we are one chapter away from finishing Heidi. I cannot believe that in all of my childhood, I never read or was never read to from the original Heidi. I thought that I had read Heidi, but now realize it was just a cheap imitation. In fact, a few years ago I ran across a children’s book that contained what I thought was an excerpt from the real thing, and I remember clearly thinking that I did not feel any great need to read it to my children anytime soon, as the selection left a decidedly new age, pantheistic impression. Not so with the real book. It is truly a lovely book full of beauty and innocence, God’s providence, keen observations of nature, and leaves you with the desire to seek other’s well-being above your own. Oh, and also the desire to take a summer vacation to the Swiss Alps.
My copy clearly states on the cover “original and unabridged.” I suppose this is necessary because of the plethora of watered down and re-created “classics” out there. I became aware of this when we started receiving gifts for our children. A thick, heavy book of re-told Beatrix Potter, a re-told Winnie-the-Pooh (no matter what you may think, Disney did NOT create Winnie-the-Pooh!), and many other re-told classics. Why on earth would anyone re-tell Beatrix Potter, for goodness sake? That is nearly a sin. The joy of reading Beatrix Potter is found precisely in her word choices – pleasing and eccentric. Must we dumb down children’s literature? Only if we are bent on raising dumb children. My four year old has listened raptly to Heidi, with its 19th c. formal language and long-winded, though delightful, descriptions of the Alm. Why would we not want to nourish our children’s brain with good language and excellent material? It took Klara time on the mountain, drinking the herb-enriched milk, breathing the pure air and soaking up the sunshine before she was strong enough to walk on her own. It may take some time reading the classics to our own children before they learn to love the language, the dignity, and higher thought processes afforded by real literature, but when they can stand on their own two legs and pick up a classic to read by themselves for the pure pleasure of it, won’t the time have been worth it? So go through your bookshelves and don’t be afraid to throw out those fakes, those re-creations designed for commercial-length attention spans, and read a classic to your child. Just be sure and look for “original and unabridged” on the cover.