The Pet Lamb by Johanna Spyri is actually only one of the short stories contained in this little volume, and although each one is delightful and thought provoking in the telling, it was The Pet Lamb that was exactly what I needed... a purely delightful read!
This little book had come into my possession over 40 years ago when I was just a young girl in school. The School Library was having a Book Sale and so instead of going to the candy store with my best friend to get a licorice 'All Day Jawbreaker', I was able to purchased The Pet Lamb for a nickel! It was money well spent and little did I know, as I handed that precious nickel over to our Librarian, that one day, after many years had passed and my own children had grown up and I had a grand-daughter of my own, that I would spend a delightful afternoon, cuddled up, reading... The Pet Lamb.
All of Johanna Spyri's stories are set in the Swiss Alps, including her most famous novel, Heidi. Using words, she paints beautiful landscapes of green uplands and sloping valleys that are strewn with red and blue wildflowers in the summer. There are whitewashed churches with red towers, clusters of wooden cottages and a sparkling river that winds through the valley and which also divides the two sets of characters that this story is about.
On one side of the river lives a poor family. The aged grandparents are left to take care of little Stanzeli and her younger brother Seppli, after their mother dies and their father's grief causes him to abandon them in an attempt to leave the constant reminders of happier times behind him.
On the other side of the river lives a more affluent family. The parents are well placed in the community, the father being the mayor, and the children, Lissa and her two younger brothers Kurt and Karl want for nothing.
All of these children meet at the beginning of the story, by chance, outside the little church where Stanzeli had taken her little brother to pray. They meet once again at the end of the story, on Christmas Day, where their lives are shown to have interconnected in a way that they could never have imagined, and all because of... the lamb.
This is a sweet story of guilt, confession, forgiveness, reconciliation and joy. I hope that if you ever have the chance to read it, that you will have as lovely an afternoon as I had.