The novel takes place in the Netherlands and is a colourful fictional portrait of early 19th-century Dutch life, as well as a tale of youthful honour. The book's title refers to the beautiful silver skates to be awarded to the winner of the ice-skating race Hans Brinker hopes to enter. Hans' father, Raff Brinker, suffered head trauma when he fell from a dike. It left him chronically ill, with episodes of amnesia and occasional violent outbursts, so he is unable to work. Mrs. Brinker, Hans, and Gretel must all work to support the family and are looked down upon in the community because they are poor. By chance, Hans meets the famous surgeon Dr.Boekman and begs him to treat their father, but the doctor's fees are expensive?