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Hans Brinker by Mary Mapes Dodge
Random House
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In a little Dutch village on the Zuyder Zee lives the modest family Brinker. Father Raff Brinker is employed on the dykes, and during a threatened inundation he falls from the scaffolding. After that he never works again; his mind and memory are gone, and he becomes a strange, silent man. The Brinkers, however, if poor in worldly goods, are blessed with two splendid unspoiled children – Hans, who is fifteen, and Gretel, who is twelve. On the occasion of a gala skating match held on the birthday of Mevrouw van Gleck, wife of the burgomaster of the town, the prize is to be a pair of silver skates with silver bells and buckles. The Brinker children have no skates with which to enter the competition, although they are the best skaters in the town. Encouraged by kindly little Hilda van Gleck, Hans and Gretel invest in ice skates; it is Gretel who wins the silver skates. A subsidiary story tells of the cure effected by the famous Dr. Boekman on Raff Brinker. Happy results ensue: Mynherr Brinker recalls the spot where he had buried 1,000 guilders before he lost his memory. He also helps Dr. Boekman find his long-lost son.

Strong Points:

  • Without the father’s provision, the wife, son and daughter struggle against acute poverty, each doing what he or she can to aid their survival and to care for the father and for each other. Both mother and children are thus a good example of many virtues: honor, compassion, patience, honesty, sense of duty, etc.
  • Besides the main heroes, there are many other bright characters such as Peter and Hilda, etc.
  • The story shows how some children like Carl and Katrinka, set off the good qualities of the others. It teaches us how to behave in a friendly and charitable manner.
  • Through the conversations of the traveling boys, we see their great love for their country and admiration for its heroes.
  • The reader is introduced to the world of 19th century Holland: dikes, canals, tulips, windmills, the housewives’ passion for cleanliness, the devotion of the Dutch people to St. Nicholas, etc.
  • Some of the most exciting scenes of the book are built around events related to the skill of the children in the art of ice skating. The story will thus appeal to children who have the opportunity to practice this sport (Northwest US and Canada).
  • Hans Brinker has a good plot which holds our interest throughout the book. The end is especially good, with the cure of Raff, the discovery of Dr. Boekman’s son and of course the famous race.


Several historical passages can be either skipped or read with corrections. The author (Protestant) portrays the former Spanish rulers (Catholic) of Holland as tyrants. The Duke of Alva is called "the worst specimen of a man that ever lived." To correct his misinformation, the teacher can use History of Christendom by Warren Carroll (Volume IV). The story of the Catholic martyrs of Gorkum can also be read to the children.


Hans Brinker is a story which emphasizes many Christian values. It is at the same time beautifully told and in an entertaining way. Children should enjoy this classic and thrill to the courage and resolution of its heroes.