Hans Brinker – A Sterling Story

Hans Brinker is a sterling story. 

Like a meal at a four-star restaurant it is delicious, beautiful and nourishing.  But a taste for delicious, beautiful and nourishing must be cultivated.  I would not serve Mary Mapes Dodge’s classic  Hans Brinker to a child who has been fed a steady diet of literary Happy Meals.  But a boy or girl who has tasted Laura Ingalls Wilder, Robert Louis Stevenson, Louisa May Alcott or Ralph Moody would eat this story up.

The setting, the time period and cultural references are foreign, and thus require some work to read.  Published in 1865, the story is set in the Netherlands.  Imagine weather so cold that the canals froze.  What would American families do?  Stay inside and watch TV.  In nineteenth century Holland every able bodied person laced on his skates, bundled up and had fun skating! 

There are benefits to reading it slowly, using tools such as Google Earth, search engines and maps to explore areas of interest.  Rabbit trails abound!

• Were the telescope and microscope invented by the Dutch Jacob Metius and Sacharias Janssen or by the English Roger Bacon
• A group of boys skate to Leiden and The Hague: look it up!
• Why did the art of curing and pickling herrings revolutionize the economy of Holland?

Any reader with a whiff of curiosity could learn a fair bit about Holland by reading Hans Brinker alone, in concert with other reference tools, or alongside other books like The Wheel on the School.  References to art abound; use Hans Brinker as a springboard for studying Dutch artists.  

Some favorite quotes:

Never had the sunset appeared more beautiful to Peter than when he saw it exchanging farewell glances with the windows and shining roofs of the city before him.

It is no sin to love beautiful things.

A tamed bird is a sad bird, say what you will.

Although the sermon was spoken slowly, Ben [English boy] could understand little of what was said; but when the hymn came, he joined in with all his heart. A thousand voices lifted in love and praise offered a grander language than he could readily comprehend.


Who will be the fastest skater in the race and win the Silver Skates?  Read Hans Brinker to find out!

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6 thoughts on “Hans Brinker – A Sterling Story

  1. I read Hans Brinker in my early days of homeschooling our children. Although I’d not been raised a reader, I was mature enough to love it! Your are right: children must have a cultivated taste to appreciate this wonderful story.And I *loved* The Wheel on the School! Just loved it!Your quotes makes me want to dip back into it, yet I have not extra time. Don’t you just love to find this striking quotes of high literary quality. Much writing today has lost that.I may have to borrow that first quote as an example of personification for class. 🙂  Janie

  2. This was a favorite of mine as a child.  Although I had my children read it, none of them loved it as much as I did.  Loved your review and the memories it brought back!

  3. This is a very belated comment on your visit to Runnymede in 2008!  I thought if I put it under your 2008 post, it might get lost.You mention that American Bar Association put up the Magna Carta Memorial.Hope that while you were there you saw the memorial to JFK, which was put up by the Brits.  Details can be found in Wikipedia under “Runnymede”. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Runnymede

  4. I really enjoyed this book as a kid and have had my kids read it also, though they didn’t like it as much, especially the long passages that were essentially lectures on Dutch history. Even though my kids have been raised on the classic, they wanted more story and less background. *sigh*

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