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The Greatest Skating Race: A World War II Story from the Netherlands [Hardcover]

Louise Borden , Niki Daly

List Price: CDN$ 21.99
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Book Description

Oct. 1 2004
"You're a strong skater, Piet, and you have a quick mind. This is why I know you'll succeed in this important task. I wouldn't ask you to do this if I didn't know it could be done."
In 1941 Piet, a young Dutch boy from Sluis, gets the assignment of a lifetime: He must skate along the frozen canals of the Netherlands and across the Belgian border, in order to guide two neighborhood children to their aunt's house in Brugge, where the children will remain for the duration of World War II. Their father has been taken by German soldiers, and the children are no longer safe in Sluis -- but the journey with Piet, past soldiers and enemies, is fraught with danger.
Along the treacherous path to Belgium the three children skate using every bit of speed, courage, and strength they can muster. All the time they try to appear like innocent schoolchildren simply out for a skate, for if the German soldiers discover their escape plan, the children will be in grave trouble. During the journey Piet thinks about his hero, Pim Mulier -- the first person to ever skate the Elfstedentocht, the famous and prestigious Eleven Towns Race that takes place in his country. For years Piet has dreamed of proving that he is a skater as brave and strong as Pim Mulier -- but he had never imagined that his test would fall under such dangerous circumstances.
Louise Borden's moving text captures all the tension, excitement, and fear that comes with Piet's mission, while Niki Daly's evocative illustrations bring the children and their perilous journey into vivid focus.

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From School Library Journal

Starred Review. Grade 2-5–This slice of historical fiction celebrates the bravery and resourcefulness of children. In the winter of 1941, 10-year-old Piet, a strong skater, is enlisted to lead his two young neighbors from Holland to safety over the ice to relatives in Belgium after their father is arrested for sending messages to the allied forces. The three children leave their home in Sluis and bravely skate 16 kilometers on the canals to Brugge. They outwit and hide from German soldiers and make it to their destination in one long, difficult day. Told with immediacy and suspense from Piet's point of view, the engaging narrative is arranged in columns, which is an ideal structure to relate the action in short sentences. Readers learn about the Elfstedentocht, a 200-kilometer skating race, and the boy's hero, skater Pim Mulier. The gorgeously detailed watercolor illustrations capture a sense of the time. The subdued, winter hues of brown and smoky gray are those often found in the oil paintings of Dutch and Flemish masters and match the quiet tone of the text. The book's format maximizes the drama and expanse of the landscape. Use this picture book to introduce curricular units and to give youngsters a vivid child's-eye view of the past.–Shawn Brommer, South Central Library System, Madison, WI
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

From Booklist

Gr. 3-6. In this exciting World War II picture book for older children, a boy in the Netherlands helps two children escape to Belgium, where they will be safe from German soldiers. Piet, 10, is inspired by his country's great skating champion, and he has always dreamed of taking part in the famous national race. Now, however, he must race with Johanna and her little brother, Joop, along the frozen canals, past German guards, and over the border to safety. Piet's long, lucid, first-person narrative appears in short dramatic lines ("I could feel the scrape of our blades against the ice / And I could feel the cold air inside my chest"), and Daly's sepia-tone illustrations stay true to the boy's viewpoint, both in the few tense, full-page close-ups (as when the children confront the border guards) and in the spacious views of the kids speeding through the white landscape. The focus on the historic skating race is sometimes confusing, but the war is always in the background, and the physical reality of the thrilling rescue will hold skating fans. Hazel Rochman
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved

Inside This Book (Learn More)
First Sentence
In December of 1941 I was ten years old . . . and at that time what I cared about most was skating on the frozen canals of Sluis, the town where we lived. Read the first page
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Customer Reviews

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Amazon.com: 4.8 out of 5 stars  8 reviews
8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A World War II treasure Nov. 17 2004
By LonestarReader - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover
Louise Borden has added another little known story to her collection of historical fiction. In the year 1941, Holland has been under Nazi control for a year. Ten year old Piet dreams of following in the footsteps of his hero, Piiim Mulier the skater who first achieved Elfstedentocht, the Eleven Towns Race.

When a family friend is taken into German custody Piet's grandfather asks the boy to take the threatened family's children, down the frozen canals, to safety across the border to Brugge, Belguim. They are hoping three children skating down the canals will not attact the attention of the German troops. The journey becomes Piet's Elfstedentocht. The cold, the exhaustion, the fear and the natural exuberance of the children are beautifully shared in this story.

Niki Daly's illustrations have an old fashioned feel. Daly has caught the feeling of the Dutch winter sky and the era with muted colors.

Interesting notes on the Elfstedentocht are included along with pronounciations of the Dutch words. Another wonderful book about Holland during WWII is "Forging Freedom" by Hudson Talbott. These two titles would work well together.
8 of 9 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Skating just as fast as we can May 5 2005
By E. R. Bird - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover
Parents often find themselves amazed at the sheer number of WWII picture books available to kids today. Why the year 2004 alone was privy to such fabulous tomes as, "The Cats of Krasinski Square", by Karen Hesse and "The Greatest Skating Race", by Louise Borden. Usually such picture books are examinations of the Holocaust and/or Jewish oppression. Borden's book, however, takes an entirely different route. Concentrating on the German occupation in the Netherlands, the book shows how resistance and bravery can flower in children when the need is great enough. Though this book is far too lengthy and involved to seriously interest any child under the age of eight, I'd still recommend it to those tykes that can maintain their interest through a riveting race against time.

Piet (pronounced "pete") has a single burning obsession that has yet to be thoroughly quenched. He loves to skate. This is not particularly peculiar in the Netherlands, of course. After all, he comes from a long line of skate artisans and often he traverses the many canals that run through his town. But Piet's real hope is to someday compete in the difficult Elfstedentocht race held in Friesland when the winters are cold enough. Piet's hero, Pim Mulier, once completed the 200 kilometer (roughly 125 mile) course in just 12 hours and 55 minutes and Piet's raring to do the same. But it's the second winter into WWII and the Netherlands are under German occupation. What's worse, a father of two kids in Piet's school was recently arrested by the Germans for passing on information to the British. This places the man's children in dire peril and their only hope is to somehow escape over the border to Belgium and then into the town of Brugge to safety. But how could two such children be able to find their way? That's where Piet comes in. With his trusty red notebook in hand, Piet and the kids must escape and elude the Germans and make it to their safehouse in the course of a single day over 12 kilometers. If they're strong enough.

Though looking like a picture book, this is an in-depth read more appropriate for kids reading early chapter titles. In the course of the narrative, author Louise Borden spots the text with factual information in the form of maps, pronunciation guides (very useful when you have words like, "Elfstedentocht" to contend with), and info on the great Friesland race as well as a history of skating itself. It's enough to make your head spin. And then, to top it all off, there's the story. Borden cleverly sucks you into the action. It did strike me as a little odd that in this book the adults would place Piet in such danger when a grown-up probably could've have helped the two children instead. Then again, maybe they figured that kids would attract less attention. Whatever the reason, Piet's journey is realistic. He comes up with an ingenious way to keep the seven-year-old from tiring too much and also for keeping the children's spirits up. After reading the book, you may never want to skate yourself but you're happy watching others do it here.

The illustrations by Niki Daly are nicely detailed as watercolors go but the real hero here is the text. Kids who like that classic piece of children's literature, "Hans Brinker and the Silver Skates" by Patricia Lauber will find a similar tale in "The Greatest Skating Race". Purchase only for those advanced readers that won't be turned off by a little historical fiction. A great WWII picture book for a select audience.
4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars What a fantastic, informative book!!! Jan. 1 2008
By Kiki B. - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
My 4-year-old son picked this book out at the library (I think he was attracted by the cover picture of children ice skating, a hobby he too enjoys). When I read it to him at home, I was surprised at how engaging it was for me, being that it is a book written for a younger audience. The author certainly researched her subject matter. My son and I both learned a great deal about the Netherlands in the early 1940s, and the history of ice skating. The Elfstedentocht, the speed skating race in the northern province of Friesland, I had never heard of before reading this book. Maybe one day my son will travel to the land of his ancestors and compete in this race! This excellent book could certainly inspire an interest in a venture of that nature. I certainly would recommend this book, both for its content, and the captivating artwork.
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The Greatest Skating Race Aug. 6 2011
By Jitske M Bergman - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
Ever since I read that nonsensical children's book "Hans Brinker and the Silver Skates" by Mary Mapes Dodge, I am very leary of US authors writing historical novels about other countries; I don't even bother to open them.
This book is, on the other hand, is wonderful!
I have three relatives who rode the Elfstedentocht. Because I inherited the Elfstedentocht medals ("kruisjes") of my aunt's 3 tours and one from my grandmother, I find myself often explaining the uniqueness, severity and hardship (my aunt lost her front teeths; my grandmother froze her toes in 1909)of this race to my English speaking grandchildren, I ordered this book.
In addition to writing a nice story to go along with facts, Louise Borden has done an outstanding job of reviewing this incredible race and explaining the Dutch obssession with speed skating. This winter (2010-2011) we almost had another Elfstentocht. It was not to be. Hopefully next winter, or, as they say in Friesland "It sil heve!" (It shall happen!).
Jitske Bergman
2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent read! Aug. 28 2007
By Nana - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
I purchased this for my 2nd grade granddaughter to read from her list of summer reading books. Turned out to be a 4th grade level, but she was definitely up to it! Wonderful book! Excellent adventure from WWII. She was enthralled and I was, too! Recommend this one highly!
ARRAY(0xb5362a8c)

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