Hans Brinker, or The Silver Skates (1925) by Mary Mapes Dodge ⭐⭐⭐⭐
This post is about Hans Brinker, or The Silver Skates by Mary Mapes Dodge. This book was originally published in 1865, and the edition I read was published in 1925. My edition was owned by Roosevelt High School, 19th Ave and E. 19th Street, which I think was (is?) in New York. It has an inscription, “This book was earned by Susan Buck for extra work in reading.”, and the little girl wrote her name in the top right corner of the same page “Susan Rae Buck”.
Overall, this book is very, very, good. I think this book was written for 5th or 6th graders in mind, but the children of today may not like the old-fashionedness of the writing. The story takes place “long ago” in Holland, before 1865, which probably was the 1830s or 40s. I think, today, this book is more suited to classrooms that are studying Holland, or adults who like to read complex and wonderful books.
Although this book is titled for the boy Hans Brinker, and subtitled The Silver Skates, most of the book does not center around these things. The author of the book, although American, obviously had a great love for the world of Holland. She spends a great deal describing the way things are, immersing you in the atmosphere of old Holland, and if you can take time to imagine what she is saying, this is almost like a VR experience of the mind.
The Brinker family consists of the mother, Dame Brinker, a 15 year old son Hans Brinker, and a smaller sister Gretel Brinker. The father, Raff Brinker, had worked at the mills, but fell during some kind of accident, and was left with brain damage these past ten years. The family has gotten by with very little money, though before the accident, the father had hid a fortune somewhere for safe keeping, and did not tell his wife in time. A little girl in the village gives Hans some money to buy some silver skates, and he is excited to be able to have a chance to compete with all the other children in the race that will happen on December 20th.
The second part of the story does not include Hans and his family at all. It follows the rich children of the village traveling throughout the neighboring cities, going in and out of museums, and name drops many paintings. It’s a good thing we have the internet today, because all this would have gone right over my head had I not been able to look at the paintings that they mention. I believe that this is written for people who are already versed in this branch of art, or at least have already studied a little bit of it. In this section we also get to know the characters of the rich children in the village, which is fun. It’s easy to pinpoint a favorite child in the group (Peter) and a few exciting things happen to them while traveling.
The third part is the conclusion of the story where Hans meets a famous physician who ultimately saves his father after all these years of illness, and makes him aware of life again. There is a more complex side bit to this, as well, which makes the story even more interesting. At the end is the race.
I cried in happiness, and sadness, and felt for little Gretel, who was my favorite character next to Ann. At the end they even tell us whatever happened to the other children in the story. This whole book is so well written and lays out the scene so well, that a really good, expensive film can be made quite easily with all the information that is given.
This book took me so long to read because of the middle part. It’s not all so engaging as the story of Hans’ family, although if you have the internet next to you, you’ll have no problem reading and understanding what is being conveyed. It’s not a thoroughly boring section, but maybe if I’d known that the entire story wasn’t about Hans, I might have been more ready for it.
The biggest thing that I would have changed was the fact that the brother and sister’s names were Hans and Gretel. I’m not sure why she would have picked such names as these, as even by then the story of Hansel and Gretel had to have been well known. Oh, well, not such a big deal, after all.
I give this four stars, because I feel that five stars would have been a little too much. Beautiful book, beautiful story, lovely piece of literature for anyone interested in the history of Holland.