For quite some time I’ve been keeping my eye on the Beekman 1802 site and have come to welcome the news, bits of homemaking and New York history, recipes, and ingenious handmade products that the proprietors offer up. I’ve also come to love goats as I’ve gotten glimpses of these intelligent horned creatures playing their part on this Upstate farm. But I don’t live on a farm, and the closest I get to goats is a trip to the state fair. So I took the bookish route to goat appreciation and spent some time with a 1922 edition of Heidi.
Do you remember Heidi? In this novel by Johanna Spyri, a young waif is placed in the care of her grumpy grandfather who lives like a hermit on an Alpine mountaintop. He might want only the company of his goats Little Swan and Little Bear, but young Heidi brings him out of his funk soon enough. In fact, she improves the lives of everyone she meets, including a sickly city girl named Clara. And at every step, the goats (and their strengthening dairy goodness) are right there in the story.
What sets the 1922 edition apart from others are its illustrations, created by hand by artist Jessie Willcox Smith. She is considered one of the giants of the golden age of illustration in the United States. She might not have made her name with scenes of swashbuckling high seas adventure like her teacher Howard Pyle did, but she knew her way around children and animals and quickly developed a reputation for her full-hearted depictions of these creatures. (The illustrations here, as well as other Heidi illustrations, can all be found in NYPL’s Digital Gallery.)
If you read Heidi as a child, what did you think? Did it make you want to run up a mountain and frolic with goats? Did a different beloved tale from your childhood inspire a lifelong love of animals or an interest in incorporating animals into your creative work?