A Day on Skates

Book cover
Author(s): 
Hilda Van Stockum
Illustrator(s): 
Hilda Van Stockum
Copyright: 
1934
Publisher: 
Bethlehem Books
Binding: 
Sewn Hardcover
Number of pages: 
44 pages
Subject(s): 
Setting: 
Grade / Age level: 
Resource Type: 
Review: 

Newbery Medal runner-up 1935

This beautiful new edition of Hilda Van Stockum's little masterpiece was an exciting development in our household. You see, we missed the original Bethlehem Books run of this favorite title and ended up with an old copy from eBay with cracked and brittle pages. We still loved it of course.

A Day on Skates is a simple story of a Dutch brother and sister who go on a skating picnic with their teacher and classmates for a whole day. For modern children, the setting and events open up the imagination to far away times and places. There are humorous episodes and simple lessons in humanity present in the story. The writing is lovely and engaging. The pen-and-ink illustrations and occasional full-page color paintings are a perfect complement to the story.

A particular strength of her writing is her sympathetic view of the human condition. Here is a perfect example from the story:

Every Dutch boy and girl loves to skate, and every Dutch man and woman, too. And no wonder. Holland with its canals and streams has many miles of ice when the cold at last arrives. Both Evert and Afke had learned to skate when they were very small. Indeed, Afke had been only three when she first tottered on pigmy skates, carefully held up by her father. By now she had become quite an expert, and Evert was even better. He had won several prizes in his school's skating tournaments. One of the prizes had been a beautiful book called Robinson Crusoe, which he had read so often that the cover had come off. Another time he won a silver pencil, which he gave to Afke, and the last time it had been a book entitled Good Henry, the story of a boy who was always good. This he had promptly traded for a penknife.

We bring this book out again and again, particularly on chilly winter days. Although the text is a bit longer than your average picture book, it's broken up into chapters. We tend to read a chapter at a time spread out throughout a day.

This would make a lovely gift for children of all ages.

Review Date: 
12-5-2007
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