If you read the review about Number the Stars the other day and thought it sounded interesting, but a little old for your kids, then this is the book for you. A World War II story from the Netherlands, The Greatest Skating Race shares a tale of bravery about a 10-year-old boy named Piet who helps guide two neighbor children to safety by skating 16 kilometers through the frozen canals of the Netherlands and across the Belgian border.
Piet's greatest dream is to skate in the Elfstedentocht, a 200-kilometer race held in the northern Netherlands. So when his grandfather asks him to use his skating skills to lead the two younger children to their aunt's house, he is excited about the athletic opportunity, but concerned about the dangers along the way. They must skate a long distance in a short time, all while appearing to
be carefree children out for an ordinary afternoon of skating. It's a difficult journey, and the Nazi soldiers posted on their route only add to the peril. The physical and mental challenges they encounter make for a suspenseful read!
The Greatest Skating Race is another great example of children rising to the occasion and doing something meaningful. Though a little shorter than most of our Level 3 books and in a picture-book format, this story was considerably longer than a Level 2 with a plot that should easily hold the interest of Level 3 readers. There are pronunciation helpers and notes throughout the book (which I found very handy), as well as some interesting historical information at the end. The illustrations are reminiscent of Robert McCloskey, and add a warmth that only complements the suspense of the story and the icy landscape.