Toni loses his father at a young age, and his mother, Elsbeth, is tasked with trying to provide for her son in the country all by herself. Toni discovers a passion for wood-carving, but circumstances do not allow him to pursue this line of work, and he instead finds himself as a herdsman up in the mountains. This life doesn't agree well with little Toni, and he falls ill and winds up in a sanitarium. He does not get better until he is reunited with his mother and all at once life for Toni and Elsbeth takes a positive turn thanks to the help of another patient in the sanitarium. Johanna Spyri (1827-1901) was a Swiss children's author, best known for her novel Heidi. Her stories are heavily influenced by her own life and the area of Switzerland in which she grew up.