Saturday, November 22, 2008

Hans Brinker lives!

One of my favorite books from childhood was “Hans Brinker, or The Silver Skates” by Mary Mapes Dodge. First published in 1865, the book has long been a classic.
But like many children’s classics, it’s a hard read for today’s kids. It has 289 pages, for one thing. The plot is long and involved, which makes it very satisfying for those with the patience and reading ability to see it through. But it’s a challenge for children who’ve been used to reading Captain Underpants or the Backyardigans.
In my view, it’s a challenge that ought to be taken up far more often. This book is full of old-fashioned morals, character models and useful information – all things that aren’t in high demand these days.
But even the pictures in the book aren’t that great. In the library’s copy, which has a 1945 copyright, some of the reproduction is blurry and the colors are dull.
What a delight it was to find a new “Hans Brinker” book, condensed into only 30 pages and packed with stunning artwork by Laurel Long. The pictures alone would keep any child’s attention. They are simply gorgeous.
The story is retold by Bruce Coville, a popular children’s writer. It’s a very basic, skeleton outline of the original story, but in tandem with the pictures, it’s still touching and inspiring.
Maybe it will even inspire some children to want to read the original book.

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