Title: Hans Brinker
Author: Retold by Bruce Coville
Illustrator: Laurel Long
Publisher: Dial Books for Young Readers
Flesch-Kinkaid Grade Level: 4.3
Concepts: poverty, scarciy, altruism
Review: Adapted from the classic novel by Mary Mapes Dodge, this exciting and intriguing book teaches valuable economics lessons related to scarcity, savings, and altruism. Interwoven throughout the book are three tales of two main characters with one overarching theme of poverty.
The first tale revolves around how Hans Brinker and his sister, Gretel, would like to compete in an important ice-skating race on one of Holland’s canals, but they are too poor to afford nice skates like those of their competitors. The second story is about Hans and Gretel’s sick father, his need for an operation, and the family savings that mysteriously disappeared at the time of the father’s accident. The third story center’s on the Dutch doctor who operates on the father without compensation and how this doctor has been searching for his missing adult son.
Acts of generosity are woven through these three intertwining tales, including the efforts of Hans and Gretel’s friends to help them upgrade from their wooden skates to fancier, faster skates. Laurel Long’s illustrations, based on oil paints on watercolor paper, are splendid and do a nice job illustrating some important features of Dutch architecture, culture, and society. This informative and beautiful book makes a fine addition to any collection of children’s literature with themes in social studies and the humanities.
Review by: Rutgers University Project on Economics and Children