Tuesday, June 28, 2016

The Well Read Review: The Hole Story of the Doughnut

The Hole Story of the Doughnut
Pat Miller (Author), Vincent X. Kirsch (Illustrator)
HMH Books for Young Readers
Amazon| IndieBound


Picture book biographies are a tricky, tricky thing.

Pack too much information into them, and they are reminiscent of the earliest doughnuts: "When the cakes were fried, Hanson dumped them on the dining table. They were sweet and crisp - at least around the edges. Their raw centers, heavy with grease, made them drop like cannonballs in the stomach. Sailors called them SINKERS."

Give too little information, and readers are left feeling...empty.

Fortunately for us, The Hole Story of the Doughnut is the picture book equivalent of a modern-day doughnut rather than its predecessor the Sinker. Miller has given us a sweet treat, just filling enough to satiate our appetites, with both factual information and fun, fictional accounts of the doughnut's history.

While the story centers on the doughnut, it truly is a biography of master mariner Hanson Crockett Gregory, who actually lived quite an incredible life, deftly described by Miller.
Hanson Crockett Gregory went to sea at 13, was captain of a schooner by 19, commanded a clipper a few years later, and was awarded a medal for heroism by Queen Isabella II. As you'll find in the author's note, Gregory eventually became a mining engineer and was the father of five daughters. Even in death Gregory's life was interesting. His claim to the invention of the doughnut was challenged 20 years after his death, and when his gravestone went missing, Dunkin Donuts took up the cause to replace the headstone of the inventor of the hole in the doughnut.

Common to picture book biographies, Miller briefly and tastefully mentions Gregory's death and place of burial, which may or may not invite questions about death depending on your reader.

Kirsch's cartoon-like illustrations lend a bit of fun to the tale of a delicious pastry and its inventor. The circular format chosen for the illustrations will delight young readers as soon as they notice it, almost like a doughnut puzzle. The cover and endpapers will also draw readers in, as they wonder what sailing has to do with doughnuts.

So when you "raise your next tasty doughnut to the master mariner from Maine," don't forget to raise one to Miller and Kirsch, too, for their appetizing telling of Gregory's tale. (That way you get two doughnuts. I won't tell.)

And, if like me, you are suddenly curious about whether it is doughnut or donut, check out the Huffington Post article Doughnut or Donut? The Great Spelling Debate Of Our Time. Which is your preference?

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