Friday, September 25, 2009

Book Review and Narrations: Heidi

We recently finished reading aloud Heidi by Johanna Spyri. Finally. We'd been in the process of reading it for a looooong time. I'm not really sure why we took so long to finish.

(photo taken 2014)

We did enjoy it.

The older two were more interested early on, especially Bethany, but by the time we reached the end Zion was paying better attention as well. I don't require that she listen to read-alouds at this point, although she can if she wants. My only rule for Tirzah and her is that they stay quiet during that time if they're in the area. I'll sometimes give them something quiet to occupy them; other times they come up with something on their own.

I think the version we read is unabridged, although finding unabridged versions of books is sometimes more difficult than I think it should be. Heidi was originally written in German, and the English translations can vary widely. I checked out two from the library. One of them I think said it was unabridged, but the other was the one I eventually purchased. It's a version illustrated by Jesse Wilcox Smith (we like her illustrations), one of the "Books of Wonder." I compared the versions some, and they had differences in wording, but if there are omissions in the one we have I didn't notice them. I had noticed that Ambleside Online mentions that this version may be incomplete, though. I prefer the wording in this one, too, though since I don't know German I have no idea which is the more accurate translation.

I like the fact that Heidi is an innocent story about a sweet little girl, with meaningful positive mention of God. There are important character issues addressed, and substantive things to think about. It is a thought-provoking, living book, not dumbed-down meaningless 'twaddle,' as Charlotte Mason would have said. Yet, it's enjoyable for children too.

What did the children like? Apparently the stories in which the children misbehave, ha. That's what they chose to narrate about when I asked them for final narrations. I told them they could either narrate to me a summary of the entire book, or else tell me a story from it. They both chose the latter.

Peter, age 7, is not great at narration. He's not as strong verbally as Bethany. His narrations have improved over the past year or so, however. For some time he wanted to refer to characters as "that guy" or some similar designation when telling about them, and many times he would want to begin at the end of the section he was to narrate and tell me either just the last part or kind of skip backwards through the story, telling random facts as he remembered them. He's improving, but he still doesn't care to elaborate much on his narrations or get into them too much.

Here's his narration:

"Peter decided that he was going to make it so that Heidi would come with him on the mountain and see the flowers again, so he knocked the chair down the mountain, and the chair went rolling down the mountain and he thought that everything would go nice again, but everything went yucky. And then Claire was able to walk, and then she didn’t need her chair anymore, and they found out that it was Peter who had done it."

Bethany, on the other hand, at age 9, is a born narrator, being very verbal and good at story-telling. She's always been good at narrations. She narrated an entire chapter plus a portion of the next. She sure put me to work typing; the chapters in Heidi are not short, and the narration ended up being about four and a half pages! (I don't have them write their narrations yet. They would be drastically shorter and not nearly as interesting or helpful in testing recall if I had even Bethany write them out at this point, so I just take them orally and occasionally record one in some form.) She had the advantage of having read the section over to herself a few times after we had read it aloud; it was her favorite part, where Heidi causes all kinds of mischief without intending to. She does a pretty good job, using a lot of good vocabulary and phrasings of the writing. She doesn't always get all the details just right, but usually the differences are minor.

I won't include all of Bethany's narration, but here are two excerpts, a paragraph from the beginning of the narration and another from the end:

"Heidi lay wondering where she was. Suddenly she remembered how the day before she had been brought down from the mountain and brought to Herr Sesemann’s house to accompany Clara. She found herself in a large, white bed, in a very large room, with the couch covered with large flowers, and a table with a wash stand and a towel. Heidi jumped out of bed, dressed herself, and ran from window to window, trying to open it to see the mountain tops from which the snow never melted, and the green valley below. But she could not open the windows, for they were fastened tightly."

"The tutor was about to speak, but we will never know what he would have said, for the minute the basket cover was off, out came one, two, three, then two more, then more kittens, scrambling, scratching, mewing, running all over the place. Clara lay on her couch in delight, watching the kittens. 'See, Heidi!' she kept on saying. 'Look at that one! Look at that one!' Heidi in her delight kept on running back and forth, first into that corner, and then into this corner. Fraulein Rottenmeier, at first too overcome with terror to even move, finally gathered courage and said, 'Tinette, Tinette! Sebastian, Sebastian!' Tinette and Sebastian came, and by degrees got the kittens all inside the basket and put them with the other two."

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  1. Heidi is one of my favorites from childhood, and my girls have enjoyed an abridged picture book version of it already, too. Thanks for sharing! :-)

  2. phew! NOW who's posting so frequently others can't keep up?! :) Fun post! Love the natural narrator vs. not so much. I like the message of 'repentance' found in Heidi on the part of Grandfather.

    I know what you mean about getting bogged down in a readaloud. We did that with "The Burgess Bird Book"--I thought we would never finish it!

  3. We read Heidi!
    It had a slow beginning, but all three kids liked it.
    Your daughter's narration was done VERY well!

  4. We love Heidi! And it is hard to find unabridged, but so worth it! :)

  5. I LOVED Heidi; I didn't read it until a couple years ago, and haven't yet read it to Tabitha. It is an excellent book, and I look forward to sharing it with her.

    Another book I just loved is Understood Betsy.