The Hole Story of the Doughnut by Pat Miller. Illustrated by Vincent X. Kirsch. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2016
Prior to 1847, little round cakes fried in lard were a dietary staple for sailors aboard ships. They were easy to prepare and easy to eat. But Hanson Gregory, a 16-year-old cook’s assistant aboard a schooner, listened to his fellow sailor’s complaints about the cakes, which they called “sinkers” because the centers were so heavy with grease, and he came up with a way to improve them: He took the top of a pepper shaker and cut the centers out of the cakes before he fried them. They were such a hit that Hanson shared the idea with his mother when he got back home, and she began to cook up dozens of “holey cakes” to sell on the docks to the sailors, and pretty soon, all the ships’ cooks began to adopt the practice, thereby spreading doughnuts far and wide. Gregory later became a ship’s captain, and tall tales began to develop about how he came to invent the doughnut, some of which are included in this book. A great deal of primary and secondary research went into recounting the doughnut’s—or, more accurately, the doughnut hole’s–entertaining history. Each whimsical watercolor illustration is framed within a circle, echoing the importance of the doughnut hole. ©2016 Cooperative Children’s Book Center
Start some conversation with these discussion prompts:
- Captain Gregory spent a lot of time on large ships, what is the largest vehicle you’ve ever seen, and where were you when you saw it?
- Why is Captain Gregory considered a hero? What is he remembered for?
- In the book, what is the problem Hanson Gregory was trying to solve with his invention? How does his invention help the sailors?
- How do the sailors’ stories differ from Hanson Gregory’s story (How do tall-tales differ from non-fiction?)