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Hans Brinker

Mary Mapes Dodge

Book Overview: 

Mary Mapes Dodge created an instant bestseller with “Hans Brinker or The Silver Skates.” She wanted the book to be partly a book of travels and partly a domestic story. It is a tale written for children that adults also find interesting and uplifting. Dodge writes as if she is sending a series of letters from Holland to children in America, and her you-are-there perspective is aided by a nice attention to detail and vivid imagery.

The Brinkers are a poor but stoic family under a dark cloud – Raff, the man of the house, fell from the dikes while reinforcing them during a bad storm, and for ten years he has been in a vegetative state. With no steady income, the family’s lot is grinding poverty. Despite their unfortunate circumstances, Hans and Gretel are cheerful children, yet always attentive to the needs of their mother and their present-but-not-really-there father. Their social standing is very low, but they both attract firm friends, even among the gentry, for their honesty, industry, and good-heartedness.

Then a glorious skating race is proposed for the town of Broek, with the prize a pair of silver skates for both the winning boy and girl. In the weeks leading up to the race, we follow the adventures of five of the local boys who are showing a visiting relative from England the sights of the Netherlands. Hans improbably meets the one man who might be able to heal his father, and somehow Hans finds a way to afford some skates so that he and Gretel can enter the race.

This all leads up to a dramatic, moving, and entirely satisfactory conclusion. “Hans Brinker” hits a series of high notes and encourages children to cultivate and display their finer qualities.

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Book Excerpt: 
. . .Blushing and brightening, she hastily wiped her eyes, and looked upon them as only a mother can.

"Hoity! Toity! pretty talk we're having, and Saint Nicholas' Eve almost here! What wonder the yarn pricks my fingers! Come, Gretel, take this cent,[11] and while Hans is trading for the skates you can buy a waffle in the market-place."

"Let me stay home with you, mother," said Gretel, looking up with eyes that sparkled through their tears. "Hans will buy me the cake."

"As you will, child, and Hans—wait a moment. Three turns of the needle will finish this toe, and then you may have as good a pair of hose as ever were knitted (owning the yarn is a grain too sharp,) to sell to the hosier on the Heireen Gracht.[12] That will give us three quarter-guilders if you make good trade; and as it's right hungry weather, you may buy four waffles. We'll keep the Feast of Saint Nicholas after all."

[Pg 51]

Gretel clapped her hands. "That will . . . Read More

Community Reviews

Hans Brinker was written by Mary Mapes Dodge in 1865. My copy is a first edition from 1925, published by Saalfield Publishing Company which is no longer in business. Reading a book that is nearly 100 years old sure took me back in time. As I carefully turned the brown, brittle pages and read the sto

I loved this book as a kid and reread it several times. It was especially enjoyable while eating Dutch chocolate shoes. ;-) This book made me fascinated with all things Holland. I still have the edition I read when I was 8 or 9.

Mary Mapes Dodge (1831-1905) was, at the time she wrote this novel, a widowed mom who'd moved back in with her well-to-do family after the death of her financially-embarrassed husband. Herself well educated by private tutors, she originally began to write educational short stories for her own kids;

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