A little girl, Heidi, moves into a rich lady’s house so that the lady’s daughter has a friend her age.
Ok, I listened to this one and zoned out a lot. I believe every book has something you can love and for me, it was the way the relationships between characters were illustrated.
Heidi and her grandfather have a strong relationship, despite him being judged for not sending her to school and his parenting techniques. She also has a strong relationship with her blind grandmother and has this notion that if she can bring back fresh rolls her grandmother will be able to see again. It also illustrates how Heidi copes with making a new friend, moving into a new home and homesickness. These are some of the best bits of the books, well these and the old lady, Rottenmeier, terrified of cats.
However, Heidi’s friend Clara is bound to a wheelchair. This wouldn’t have been a problem if it wasn’t for the ending. Once Heidi moves back in with her grandfather on top of the mountain, Clara comes to visit and is carried up to the top. Her cousin Peter gets jealous and purposely breaks the chair so Clara cannot move around. Except, day by day she starts to get better and can actually start to climb bits of the mountain.
I know it’s an old book and books back in Spyri’s time, disability wasn’t classed as an important issue but it is very unlikely, verging on impossible, that a wheelchair user is going to learn to walk once their chair is taken away from them, yet alone climb a mountain. I’m sure even back in the late 1800s, they knew this. It sends out the wrong message that disabled people are lazy, but I know loads of disabled people who hate to let their disability win by stopping them from doing something they enjoy.
As this is classed as a children’s book, it sends the message that disability is something to be ashamed of, that you should be able-bodied and that you can be healed. For a young reader who is disabled, they may look at this book and think that if they didn’t have whatever aid they needed, then they would be healed and like other children. An able-bodied child could read this book and think “if I took this person’s aid away and encouraged them to be normal they’ll get better”. I suggest if you give this book to a child, explain that the world does not work this way but the people in the 1800s wished it did, it could be a good way to introduce them to disability. I would use another book like Katy by Jacqueline Wilson to show them how views have changed and that people cannot just be or need to be ‘healed’.