Setting: In Holland, in the 1840’s
Central theme: If you treat people nice they shall treat you the same.
Main characters: Hans Brinker, Gretel Brinker, Meitje Brinker, Raff Brinker
Other important characters: Dr. Gerard Boekman, Ludwig van Mounen, Carl Schummel, Peter van Holp, Ludwig van Holp, Ben Dobbs, Hilda van Gleck, Jacob Poot, Katrinka Flack, Rychie Korbs.
Summary: In Holland, poor but industrious and honorable 15year old Hans Brinker and his younger sister Gretel, wanted to participate in December’s great ice-skating race on the canal. They have little chance of doing well on their handmade wooden skates, but the main reason they want to race is because they want the prize of the Silver Skates. Hans’ father, Raff Brinker, is sick and amnesiac, with violent behavior, because of a head injury caused by a fall from a dike and cannot work. Meitje Brinker, Hans and Gretel must work to support the family and are looked down upon in the community because they are poor. Hans has a chance meeting with the famous surgeon Dr. Boekman and begs him to treat their father, but the doctor is expensive and grumpy beacause of the loss of his wife and disappearance of his son.
Eventually, Dr. Boekman is persuaded to examine the Brinkers’ father. He diagnoses pressure on the brain, which can be cured by a risky and expensive operation involving trephining. Hans offers his own money, saved to buy steel skates, to the doctor to pay for his father’s operation. Touched by this gesture, Dr. Boekman does the surgery for free, and Hans is able to buy good skates for both himself and Gretel to skate in the race. Raff Brinker’s operation is successful, and he is restored to health and memory.
Dr. Boekman is also changed, losing his grumpy ways (thanks in part to being able to be reunited with his lost son through the unlikely aid of Raff Brinker). The Brinkers’ fortunes are changed further by the great recovery of Raff Brinker’s savings, thought lost or stolen ten years ago. Gretel wins the girls’ race, but Hans lets a friend who needs it more win the precious prize, the Silver Skates, in the boys’ race. The Brinker parents live a long and happy life. Dr. Boekman helps Hans go to medical school and Hans becomes a successful doctor. Gretel also grows up to enjoy a happy adult life.
Opinion: I find this book a very interesting book. It is filled with Dutch cultural and historical information. My favorite scene in the book is when the doctor cured Raff Brinker and when they found their lost money and also when Dr. Boekman was reunited with his lost son. I like everything in this book there is nothing I can dislike.