Hans Brinker


It was snowing when we went upstairs last night.  I tucked both kids (and myself) into Leo's big bed with a new picture book:  Hans Brinker, retold by Bruce Coville and illustrated by Laurel Long (Dial, 2007).  Right away there was a lot of ooh-ing and aah-ing over Long's lush, luminous paintings of snow-covered Dutch towns and landscapes.  The snow seems to sparkle (and inside, the candles glow).  Then we discovered that the story really begins on the eve of St. Nicholas...and of course, last night was the eve of St. Nicholas.  It was the perfect book for us to be reading together.

Coville does a wonderful job with this adaptation of the novel by Mary Mapes Dodge, first published in 1865 (see the Holiday High Notes from the November/December 2007 issue of The Horn Book for a review).  The story is somewhat complicated:  there is the race for the silver skates on one hand, and the situation surrounding Hans's father, who lost his memory after an accident ten years before, on the other.  Leo was intrigued by the mystery of the missing thousand guilders (and the origin of the silver watch; see, I told you it was complicated), and he was excited to learn the outcome of the race (spoiler alert: Hans does not win).  Milly might have fallen asleep, but she's only three and it was past her bedtime.  As for me, I especially liked the character of Hans, who is "strong of heart and true of purpose" (Coville, in an adaptor's note):  a good role model for my own sturdy boy (and girl).

[Happy St. Nicholas Day!  To learn more about St. Nicholas and how his day is celebrated in Holland around the world, go to the website of the St. Nicholas Center:  Discovering the Truth about Santa Claus.]