HOME SCHOOL BOOK REVIEW
Book: A Day on Skates: The Story of a Dutch Picnic
Author and Illustrator: Hilda van Stockum
Publisher: Bethlehem Books, republished in 2007
ISBN-13: 978-1932350180 Hardcover
ISBN-10: 1932350187 Hardcover
ISBN-13: 978-1883937027 Paperback
ISBN-10: 1883937027 Paperback
Related website: http://www.bethlehembooks.com (publisher)
Language level: 1
(1=nothing objectionable; 2=common euphemisms and/or childish slang terms; 3=some cursing and/or profanity; 4=a lot of cursing and/or profanity; 5=obscenity and/or vulgarity)
Recommended reading level: Ages 6 and up
Rating: ***** 5 stars (EXCELLENT)
Reviewed by Wayne S. Walker
Disclosure: Many publishers and/or authors provide free copies of their books in exchange for an honest review without requiring a positive opinion. Any books donated to Home School Book Review for review purposes are in turn donated to a library. No other compensation has been received for the reviews posted on Home School Book Review.
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Van Stockum, Hilda. A Day on Skates: The Story of a Dutch Picnic (published in 1934 by Harper and Brothers; republished in 2007 by Bethlehem Books, a division of Ignatius Press, 10194 Garfield St., Bathgate, ND 58216). The nine year old Jansen twins, Evert, a boy, and Afke, a girl, live with their father and mother in the village of Elst in the province of Friesland, Holland, where they go to school and enjoy skating on the canals. One cold winter, their teacher announces that on Friday the class will go on a skating picnic to the city of Snaek for the entire day. Afke, Evert, and Evert’s best friends Jan, the burgomaster’s son, and Okke are all overjoyed. However, there is a new boy at school who is very shy and not looking forward to the trip. Simon Smit is an orphan who had lived with a sour old aunt until she sent him to stay with an uncle at Elst. He has never had any friends.
The children, led by Teacher, start out on their journey with Simon lagging behind the others. Suddenly Evert stumbles on some rough ice and falls into a fishing hole. He splashes about trying to grab the edges of the broken ice, but they only crumble further. What will happen to Evert? Is there anyone who is able to save him? Does their picnic turn out to be a time of pleasure or of tragedy? Author Hilda van Stockum Marlin (1908-2006) also wrote books for young adults including one of her best known works, The Winged Watchman. A Day on Skates was a Newbery Honor Book in 1935. It is called a “picture book,” but unlike most other such works, it is divided into six somewhat lengthy chapters and would probably be a bit beyond the normal picture book age range. However, it would make a wonderful family or classroom read aloud story.
One reviewer said, “This is an outing that modern kids can only drool over, a dream field trip from another era.” The teacher does smoke a pipe. However, in addition to the book’s being an adventurous tale, loving family relationships are portrayed, and there are several acts of kindness demonstrated, such as when Evert begs the burgomaster to let Jan, who has been grounded for a bad report card, to go on the picnic, and when the boys ask the lonely Simon to be part of their secret club of explorers. The children aren’t always perfect little angels on their outing, but they have obviously been brought up to be generally respectful and obedient. In fact, van Stockum’s more than thirty books are known for their warm and vivid but realistic depictions of family life, often in the face of difficulty or danger.