Hans Brinker or the Silver Skates

Hans Brinker or the Silver Skates

by Mary Mapes Dodge

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Hans Brinker or The Silver Skates was published in 1865 and received more reviews than any other children's book that year. Today it continues to delight countless readers with its story of a virtuous family who inspires us all to have the courage to pursue our dreams.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781419311291
Publisher: Recorded Books, LLC
Publication date: 12/31/1996
Product dimensions: 6.00(w) x 1.25(h) x 9.00(d)

About the Author

Patricia Lauber is the author of the Around-the-House series and more than 125 other books for young people. Her Volcano: The Eruption and Healing of St. Helens was a Newbery Honor Book. She lives with her husband and two cats, Beemer and MeToo, in New Canaan, Connecticut.

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Hans Brinker or the Silver Skates

By Mary Mapes Dodge

Tom Doherty Associates

Copyright © 1993 Tom Doherty Associates, LLC
All rights reserved.
ISBN: 978-0-8125-3342-2


Hans and Gretel

On a bright December morning long ago, two thinly clad children were kneeling upon the bank of a frozen canal in Holland.

The sun had not yet appeared, but the gray sky was parted near the horizon, and its edges shone crimson with the coming day. Most of the good Hollanders were enjoying a placid morning nap; even Mynheer van Stoppelnoze, that worthy old Dutchman, was still slumbering "in beautiful repose".

Now and then some peasant woman, poising a well-filled basket upon her head, came skimming over the glassy surface of the canal; or a lusty boy, skating to his day's work in the town, cast a good-natured grimace toward the shivering pair as he flew along.

Meanwhile, with many a vigorous puff and pull, the brother and sister, for such they were, seemed to be fastening something upon their feet — not skates, certainly, but clumsy pieces of wood narrowed and smoothed at their lower edge, and pierced with holes, through which were threaded strings of rawhide.

These queer-looking affairs had been made by the boy Hans. His mother was a poor peasant woman, too poor even to think of such a thing as buying skates for her little ones. Rough as these were, they had afforded the children many a happy hour upon the ice; and now, as with cold, red fingers our young Hollanders tugged at the strings — their solemn faces bending closely over their knees — no vision of impossible iron runners came to dull the satisfaction glowing within.

In a moment the boy arose, and with a pompous swing of the arms, and a careless "Come on, Gretel," glided easily across the canal.

"Ah, Hans," called his sister plaintively, "this foot is not well yet. The strings hurt me on last market-day; and now I cannot bear them tied in the same place."

"Tie them higher up, then," answered Hans, as without looking at her he performed a wonderful cat's-cradle step on the ice.

"How can I? The string is too short."

Giving vent to a good-natured Dutch whistle, the English of which was that girls were troublesome creatures, he steered toward her.

"You are foolish to wear such shoes, Gretel, when you have a stout leather pair. Your clogs would be better than these."

"Why, Hans! Do you forget? Father threw my beautiful new shoes in the fire. Before I knew what he had done they were all curled up in the midst of the burning peat. I can skate with these, but not with my wooden ones. Be careful now —"

Hans had taken a string from his pocket. Humming a tune as he knelt beside her, he proceeded to fasten Gretel's skate with all the force of his strong young arm.

"Oh! oh!" she cried in real pain.

With an impatient jerk Hans unwound the string. He would have cast it upon the ground in true big-brother style, had he not just then spied a tear trickling down his sister's cheek.

"I'll fix it — never fear," he said, with sudden tenderness; "but we must be quick; mother will need us soon."

Then he glanced inquiringly about him, first at the ground, next at some bare willow branches above his head, and finally at the sky, now gorgeous with streaks of blue, crimson, and gold.

Finding nothing in any of these localities to meet his need, his eye suddenly brightened as, with the air of a fellow who knew what he was about, he took off his cap, and removing the tattered lining, adjusted it in a smooth pad over the top of Gretel's worn-out shoe.

"Now," he cried triumphantly, at the same time arranging the strings as briskly as his benumbed fingers would allow, "can you bear some pulling?"

Gretel drew up her lips as if to say, "Hurt away," but made no further response.

In another moment they were laughing together, as hand in hand they flew along the canal, never thinking whether the ice would bear or not, for in Holland ice is generally an all-winter affair. It settles itself upon the water in a determined kind of way, and so far from growing thin and uncertain every time the sun is a little severe upon it, it gathers its forces day by day, and flashes defiance to every beam.

Presently, squeak! squeak! sounded something beneath Hans's feet. Next his strokes grew shorter, ending oft-times with a jerk, and finally, he lay sprawling upon the ice, kicking against the air with many a fantastic flourish.

"Ha! ha!" laughed Gretel. "That was a fine tumble!" But a tender heart was beating under her coarse blue jacket, and, even as she laughed, she came, with a graceful sweep, close to her prostrate brother.

"Are you hurt, Hans? Oh, you are laughing! Catch me now" — and she darted away, shivering no longer, but with cheeks all aglow, and eyes sparkling with fun.

Hans sprang to his feet and started in brisk pursuit, but it was no easy thing to catch Gretel. Before she had traveled very far, her skates too began to squeak.

Believing that discretion was the better part of valour, she turned suddenly and skated into her pursuer's arms.

"Ha! ha! I've caught you!" cried Hans.

"Ha! ha! I caught you? she retorted, struggling to free herself.

Just then a clear, quick voice was heard calling: "Hans! Gretel!"

"It's Mother," said Hans, looking grave in an instant.

By this time the canal was gilded with sunlight. The pure morning air was very delightful, and skaters were gradually increasing in numbers. It was hard to obey the summons. But Gretel and Hans were good children; without a thought of yielding to the temptation to linger, they pulled off their skates, leaving half the knots still tied. Hans, with his great square shoulders, and bushy yellow hair, towered high above his blue-eyed little sister as they trudged homeward. He was fifteen years old and Gretel was only twelve. He was a solid, hearty-looking boy, with honest eyes, and a brow that seemed to bear a sign, GOODNESS WITHIN, just as the little Dutch summerhouse wears a motto over its portal. Gretel was lithe and quick; her eyes had a dancing light in them, and while you looked at her cheek the color paled and deepened just as it does upon a bed of pink and white blossoms when the wind is blowing.

As soon as the children turned from the canal they could see their parents' cottage. Their mother's tall form, arrayed in jacket and petticoat and close-fitting cap, stood like a picture, in the crooked frame of the doorway. Had the cottage been a mile away, it would still have seemed near. In that flat country every object stands out plainly in the distance; the chickens show as distinctly as the windmills. Indeed, were it not for the dikes and the high banks of the canals, one could stand almost anywhere in middle Holland without seeing a mound or a ridge between the eye and the "jumping-off place".

None had better cause to know the nature of these same dikes than Dame Brinker and the panting youngsters now running at her call. But before stating why, let me ask you to take a rocking-chair trip with me to that far country, where you may see, perhaps for the first time, some curious things that Hans and Gretel saw every day.



Holland is one of the queerest countries under the sun. It should be called Odd-land or Contrary-land, for in nearly everything it is different from the other parts of the world. In the first place, a large portion of the country is lower than the level of the sea. Great dikes or bulwarks have been erected at a heavy cost of money and labor, to keep the ocean where it belongs. On certain parts of the coast it sometimes leans with all its weight against the land, and it is as much as the poor country can do to stand the pressure. Sometimes the dikes give way, or spring a leak, and the most disastrous results ensue. They are high and wide, and the tops of some of them are covered with buildings and trees. They have even fine public roads upon them, from which horses may look down upon wayside cottages. Often the keels of floating ships are higher than the roofs of the dwellings. The stork clattering to her young on the house-peak may feel that her nest is lifted far out of danger, but the croaking frog in neighboring bulrushes is nearer the stars than she. Waterbugs dart backward and forward above the heads of the chimney swallows; and willow-trees seem drooping with shame, because they cannot reach as high as the reeds nearby.

Ditches, canals, ponds, rivers and lakes are everywhere to be seen. High, but not dry, they shine in the sunlight, catching nearly all the bustle and the business, quite scorning the tame fields stretching damply beside them. One is tempted to ask: "Which is Holland — the shores or the water?" The very verdure that should be confined to the land has made a mistake and settled upon the fishponds. In fact, the entire country is a kind of saturated sponge, or, as the English poet, Butler, called it:

A land that rides at anchor, and is moor'd, In which they do not live, but go aboard.

Persons are born, live, and die, and even have their gardens, on canal boats. Farmhouses, with roofs like great slouched hats pulled over their eyes, stand on wooden legs with a tucked-up sort of air, as if to say, "We intend to keep dry if we can." Even the horses wear a wide stool on each hoof to lift them out of the mire. In short, the landscape everywhere suggests a paradise for ducks. It is a glorious country in summer for barefooted girls and boys. Such wading! Such mimic ship sailing! Such rowing, fishing, and swimming! Only think of a chain of puddles where one can launch chip boats all day long, and never make a return trip! But enough. A full recital would set all my readers rushing in a body toward the Zuider Zee.

Dutch cities seem at first sight to be a bewildering jungle of houses, bridges, churches, and ships, sprouting into masts, steeples, and trees. In some cities vessels are hitched, like horses, to their owners' door-posts, and receive their freight from the upper windows. Mothers scream to Lodewyk and Kassy not to swing on the garden gate for fear they may be drowned! Water-roads are more frequent there than common roads and railways; water-fences, in the form of lazy green ditches, enclose pleasure-ground, farm, and garden.

Sometimes fine green hedges are seen; but wooden fences such as abound in America are rarely met with in Holland. As for stone fences, a Dutchman would lift his hands with astonishment at the very idea. There is no stone there, excepting those great masses of rock that have been brought from other lands to strengthen and protect the coast. All the small stones or pebbles, if there ever were any, seem to be imprisoned in pavements or quite melted away. Boys with strong, quick arms may grow from pinafores to full beards without ever finding one to start the water-rings or set the rabbits flying. The water-roads are nothing less than canals intersecting the country in every direction. These are of all sizes, from the great North Holland Ship Canal, which is the wonder of the world, to those which a boy can leap. Water-omnibuses, called trekschuiten, constantly ply up and down these roads for the conveyance of passengers; and water-drays, called pakschuyten, are used for carrying fuel and merchandise. Instead of green country lanes, green canals stretch from field to barn and from barn to garden; and the farms or polders, as they are termed, are merely great lakes pumped dry. Some of the busiest streets are water, while many of the country roads are paved with brick. The city boats, with their rounded sterns, gilded prows, and gaily painted sides, are unlike any others under the sun; and a Dutch wagon, with its funny little crooked pole, is a perfect mystery of mysteries.

"One thing is clear," cries Master Brightside, "the inhabitants need never be thirsty." But no, Odd-land is true to itself still. Notwithstanding the sea pushing to get in, and the lakes struggling to get out, and the overflowing canals, rivers, and ditches, in many districts there is no water fit to swallow; our poor Hollanders must go dry, or drink wine and beer, or send far into the inland to Utrecht, and other favored localities, for that precious fluid older than Adam yet young as the morning dew. Sometimes, indeed, the inhabitants can swallow a shower, when they are provided with any means of catching it; but generally they are like the albatross-haunted sailors in Coleridge's famous poem of The Ancient Mariner — they see

Water, water everywhere Nor any drop to drink!

Great flapping windmills all over the country make it look as if flocks of huge sea-birds were just settling upon it. Everywhere one sees the funniest trees, bobbed into fantastical shapes, with their trunks painted a dazzling white, yellow, or red. Horses are often yoked three abreast. Men, women, and children go clattering about in wooden shoes with loose heels; peasant girls who cannot get beaux for love, hire them for money to escort them to the fair; and husbands and wives lovingly harness themselves side by side on the bank of the canal and drag their pakschuyts to market.

Another peculiar feature of Holland is the dune or sandhill. These are numerous along certain portions of the coast. Before they were sown with coarse reed-grass and other plants to hold them down, they used to send great storms of sand over the inland. So, to add to the oddities, farmers sometimes dig down under the surface to find their soil, and on windy days dry showers (of sand) often fall upon fields that have grown wet under a week of sunshine.

In short, almost the only familiar thing we can meet with in Holland is a harvest-song which is quite popular there, though no linguist could translate it. Even then we must shut our eyes and listen only to the tune which I leave you to guess.

Yanker didee dudel down
Didee dudel lawnter;
Yankee viver, voover, vown,
Botermelk und Tawnter!

On the other hand, many of the oddities of Holland serve only to prove the thrift and perseverance of the people. There is not a richer, or more carefully tilled garden spot in the whole world than this leaky, springy little country. There is not a graver, more heroic race than its quiet, passive-looking inhabitants. Few nations have equalled it in important discoveries and inventions; none has excelled it in commerce, navigation, learning, and science — or set as noble examples in the promotion of education, and public charities; and none in proportion to its extent has expended more money and labor upon public works.

Holland has its shining annals of noble and illustrious men and women; its grand, historic records of patience, resistance, and victory; its religious freedom, its enlightened enterprise, its art, its music, and its literature. It has truly been called "the battle-field of Europe" — as truly may we consider it the Asylum of the world, for the oppressed of every nation have there found shelter and encouragement. If we Americans, who, after all, are hemoeopathic preparations of Holland stock, can laugh at the Dutch, and call them human beavers, and hint that their country may float off any day at high tide, we can also feel proud, and say they have proved themselves heroes, and that their country will not float off while there is a Dutchman left to grapple it.

There are said to be at least ninety-nine hundred large windmills in Holland, with sails ranging from eighty to one hundred and twenty feet long. They are employed in sawing timber, beating hemp, grinding, and many other kinds of work; but their principal use is for pumping water from the lowlands into the canals, and for guarding against the inland freshets that so often deluge the country. Their yearly cost is said to be nearly ten millions of dollars. The large ones are of great power. Their huge, circular tower, rising sometimes from the midst of factory buildings, is surmounted with a smaller one tapering into a cap-like roof. This upper tower is encircled at its base with a balcony, high above which juts the axis, turned by its four prodigious, ladder-backed sails.


Excerpted from Hans Brinker or the Silver Skates by Mary Mapes Dodge. Copyright © 1993 Tom Doherty Associates, LLC. Excerpted by permission of Tom Doherty Associates.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

Table of Contents


The Life of Mary Mapes Dodge,
1 Hans and Gretel,
2 Holland,
3 The Silver Skates,
4 Hans and Gretel Find a Friend,
5 Shadows in the Home,
6 Sunbeams,
7 Hans Has His Way,
8 Introducing Jacob Poot and His Cousin,
9 The Festival of Saint Nicholas,
10 What the Boys Saw and Did in Amsterdam,
11 Big Manias and Little Oddities,
12 On the Way to Haarlem,
13 A Catastrophe,
14 Hans,
15 Homes,
16 Haarlem — the Boys Hear Voices,
17 The Man with Four Heads,
18 Friends in Need,
19 On the Canal,
20 Jacob Poot Changes the Plan,
21 Mynheer Kleef and His Bill of Fare,
22 The Red Lion Becomes Dangerous,
23 Before the Court,
24 The Beleaguered Cities,
25 Leyden,
26 The Palace and the Wood,
27 The Merchant Prince and the Sister-Princess,
28 Through the Hague,
29 A Day of Rest,
30 Homeward Bound,
31 Boys and Girls,
32 The Crisis,
33 Gretel and Hilda,
34 The Awakening,
35 Bones and Tongues,
36 A New Alarm,
37 The Father's Return,
38 The Thousand Guilders,
39 Glimpses,
40 Looking for Work,
41 The Fairy Godmother,
42 The Mysterious Watch,
43 A Discovery,
44 The Race,
45 Joy in the Cottage,
46 Mysterious Disappearance of Thomas Higgs,
47 Broad Sunshine,
48 Conclusion,

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Hans Brinker or the Silver Skates 4.1 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 17 reviews.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Hans Brinker was an outstanding read. It was one of the books where once you start reading you can¿t stop. In some parts it gets kind of lengthy, but what do you expect from a book? It has excellent descriptions of Holland and teaches you a lot of different words and traditions from the vivacious and distinctive wintry land of Holland. The book is very thrilling at times and makes you wonder what will happen next. At many times I was tempted to read the last page but I warn you it will ruin the whole thing! I recommend this book for everyone, and hope you get to read it, it is a very `filling book¿.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Hans truly has the heart of an angel. Not only does he skate about Holland for weeks, but he has the guts to bring back the most distinguished doctor in Holland. He wins the race of skating, and the race of life.
Guest More than 1 year ago
On Mother's Day, My Nana gave me Hans Brinker and A Tale of Two Cities. I think that Hans Brinker will be the best of the two because it is more for my age.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Readoooodles on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
My dad had a copy of this book. It was one of the few he owned as a kid and it was given to him by his older sister. I read and re-read this book as a kid and remembered liking it very much.
tlesr on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Endearing classic about a brother and sister who work together to find a doctor who can help their father and winning the competition to win silver skates.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I love this book as much as i did when i was 10! At first i was a bit worried about scanning errors, but the typos are not major.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
He walks next to his new mate to their new clan. =(Silverwhisker)=
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This is a wonderful story. Yet its wordiness might bore some readers. Please persevere, like the poor honest Brinker's do. You'll also be rewarded with a happily ended story read!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This a great story book with lots of history. It is considered a childens book but i didn't and would never read if a kid. Loved it now as a grandma and great grandma.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
JaneTeacher More than 1 year ago
I remember loving this book as a child, so when my fifth graders began to study The Netherlands, I decided to read it aloud to the class. The basic story is good, and the book has led to many class discussions. However, the book was written in 1865 and the style and vocabulary reflect that. The author includes whole chapters that lend little to the story line, but rather are intended to instruct the young reader on the customs or culture of Holland at that time. I have found myself replacing words here and there as I read for better student understanding. Also, because of this, it is taking longer to read aloud than I anticipated. There are also many, many Dutch words and names on every page. However, if your purpose is to increase knowledge about old Holland, to expose your young person to a classical style of literature,and you plan to give the book to an above average reader of middle elementary years, this would be the perfect book. Just understand that it's a classic book written in the style of more than one hundred years ago, and not the fast-paced edgy writing that young people are independently choosing today. The updated cover is very attractive. This book will not only entertain the reader, but educate them as well. And I did buy a copy of Hans Brinker or the Silver Skates for each of my students as a gift when I finish reading it to them in class.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I liked the book it's a little slow at the beginning but then It gets good. It's a great story about two kids in their family.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Its an awesome book!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Hans Brinker is a realy awesome book that is old
Guest More than 1 year ago
I found this book quite boring. Chapter 2 is nothing but details on Holland. The author should have just sprinkled in the details (highlight of good writing) And the rest of the book is a mess--unfocused and jumps around too much. There also should have been more action and suspense in the novel. I did like the children.