January 17 – Kid Inventors’ Day

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About the Holiday

Today’s holiday celebrates all those ingenious kids who have improved the world with their inventions. This date was chosen to commemorate another child inventor—Benjamin Franklin—who designed the first swim fins when he was just 12 years old! (Seriously, is there nothing this man didn’t or couldn’t do?) With their supple minds and can-do attitudes, kids have changed the ways things are done in the fields of medicine, technology, communications, and even food—as today’s book shows! To learn more about the day and find resources for young inventors, visit the K.I.D website.

The Hole Story of the Doughnut

Written by Pat Miller | Illustrated by Vincent X. Kirsch

 

In 1844 at the tender age of 13, Hanson Gregory left the family farm and went to sea as a cabin boy on the schooner Isaac Achorn. He quickly became the cook’s assistant and also learned how to rig the sails and “steer a ship over trackless waves by sun and stars.” By the age of 19 Gregory had become the captain of the schooner Hardscrabble, and within a few more years was racing “his cargo from Maine to California as commander of a clipper, the fastest ship on any ocean.”

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Image copyright Vincent X. Kirsch, courtesy of vincentxkirsch.com

Hanson Gregory may have been one of the best captains to sail the seas—once awarded a medal for heroism for rescuing seven shipwrecked Spanish sailors even though his own ship and crew were endangered. But his greatest achievement was not attained because of his seafaring skills—it was his ingenuity in the galley that people remember.

On June 22, 1847 as a 16-year-old cook’s assistant, Hanson was rustling up the crew’s breakfast—coffee and fried cakes, the same as every morning. While the pot of lard bubbled on the stove, Gregory formed balls of sweetened dough and dropped them in. They sizzled and crisped—at least around the edges. The centers were raw, heavy with grease, and they dropped like cannonballs in the stomach. “Sailors called them Sinkers.” But this morning Gregory had an idea. He removed the lid from the pepper can and cut out the center of the balls. “Then he tossed the rings into the bubbling lard.”

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Image copyright Vincent X. Kirsch, courtesy of vincentxkirsch.com

The cook and the sailors took one look at this odd concoction and…ate them up! “The cakes were brown, and sweet, and fully cooked. Sighs of delight rose above the noisy sea. A new breakfast tradition was born.” Gregory told his mom about his invention, and she fried up large batches of these ‘holey cakes’ that became a sensation at a friend’s store and on the docks.

You might think this is a pretty interesting tale in itself, “but sailors like their stories bold” and so they “spun legends worthy of such a delicious treat.” One tale had Captain Gregory inventing the doughnut while he saved his ship from disaster. Another told how Gregory, distraught over the drowning of five sailors pulled to the ocean floor by their “sinker” breakfast, punched holes in every cake to make them look like life rings and vowed, “‘Never again!’”

Captain Gregory had a sense of humor about his accomplishment. During an interview he once stated that “he had invented ‘the first hole ever seen by mortal eyes.’” Gregory lived to be 89 and is buried “overlooking the sea where stormy weather can be spotted as readily as it once was from the quarterdeck of the Hardscrabble.”

An author’s note expanding on the story of Captain Gregory, the doughnut, doughnut shops, a timeline, and a selected bibliography follow the text.

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Image copyright Vincent X. Kirsch, courtesy of vincentxkirsch.com

Doughnuts have never been so evocative! In Pat Miller’s humorous, informative history of this favorite pastry treat, readers can smell the salt air, feel the ocean swell and roll under their feet, and even ache a little for those poor sailors forced to eat “sinkers.” Seamlessly interwoven into this foodography is a fascinating look at the early days of sail. Miller’s language is immediately stirring: the Ivanhoe bucks and plunges, the sea becomes a monster, and Captain Gregory spears a sinker on the wheel spoke. Kids will marvel at a 13-year-old going off to sea and becoming an inventor at 16.

Vincent X. Kirsch provides just the right touch to this captivating true story with his cartoon-inspired watercolor and cut paper artwork. Ingeniously incorporating Hanson Gregory’s innovation of removing the center of the fried cakes, Kirsch’s illustrations are “cored” to allow for text, while the extracted section appears on the facing page as a glimpse through a porthole. The maritime atmosphere—from ship to shore—of the mid-1800s is beautifully represented in the folk-style sketches, and the humor that is so intrinsic to this story is wonderfully embraced.

The Hole Story of the Doughnut will delight foodies and history buffs alike and would make a fun gift and a delectable addition to personal libraries for all ages.

Ages 5 – 12

Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2016 | ISBN 978-0544319615

Vincent X. Kirsch’s website is full of illustrations from his books for children—take a look at his portfolio!

Spend some time with Pat Miller on her website that offers activities, tips, resources and many more books!

Kid Inventors’ Day Activity

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CD (Compact Doughnuts) Decoration

 

Are some of  your CDs a little passé? Not if you can turn them into cute décor like this doughnut hanging.

Supplies

  • Unused CDs
  • Craft paint in tan, black, pink, yellow, white (or any colors you want for the doughnut and the icing)
  • Ribbon, any color and length you want
  • Fine-tip markers in bright colors
  • Glue
  • Glue dots (optional)
  • Paint brush

Directions

  1. Paint a wavy edge around the CD, let dry
  2. Paint the center of the CD, leaving the clear circle unpainted
  3. When the icing paint is dry, draw sprinkles on the icing with the markers
  4. With the ribbon make a loop hanger and attach it to the back of the CD with glue or glue dots
  5. Hang your decoration

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You can find The Hole Story of the Doughnut at these booksellers

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Books-a-Million | IndieBound

Picture Book Review

January 5 – National Bird Day

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About the Holiday

Today’s holiday celebrates all our feathered friends from the birds in our backyards to the chickens and turkeys that provide us with food to the penguins of Antarctica. They include wild birds and those in captivity, either as pets or in zoos or other aviaries. National Bird Day was established to promote an awareness of issues concerning the safety, health, and protection of the world’s birds. To celebrate put out birdseed and suet for winter birds or learn a little more about the birds in your area.

Trevor

Written by Jim Averbeck | Illustrated by Amy Hevron

 

“Trevor stretched his wings the width of his safe, boring cage.” Even though he knew the door would open easily, he never ventured out because everything he needed was right within reach. Today, instead of being tempted to eat his one remaining striped seed—his favorite kind—he sang a lonesome song. Outside his window, Trevor suddenly saw a lemon bump his windowsill. He took it for a fellow canary and asked it to join in singing with him. “The lemon said nothing.”

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Image copyright Amy Hevron, 2018, text copyright Jim Averbeck, 2018. Courtesy of us.macmillan.com.

Thinking that the canary was shy, Trevor picked up his cherished seed, opened the cage door, and flew outside. He placed the seed near the lemon, but the lemon stayed quiet. It didn’t take the hint that Trevor liked gifts too, either. Trevor jumped up and down on the branch, trying to get some reaction, but he only caused the seed to fall to the ground and the lemon to drop and be caught on a branch below.

Trevor was angry at the lemon and turned his back on it. He “saw the vast, frightening world stretched out before him. He felt very lonely.” Trevor looked back at the lemon and made a bargain. If the lemon was sorry for being rude, he said, it should say nothing. The lemon obliged, and Trevor forgave it. Trevor built a nest for himself and the lemon, and the two spent a cozy summer together. Below, the striped seed began to grow.

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Image copyright Amy Hevron, 2018, text copyright Jim Averbeck, 2018. Courtesy of us.macmillan.com.

Every morning they sang together. “Trevor sang the notes. The lemon sang the silences.” Trevor was happy snuggling with the lemon and decided he was never leaving the nest. One day, a storm blew up. It shook the branch and then, in a strong gust of wind, the lemon flew out of the nest. On its way down, it hit the sunflower and knocked out its seeds. The lemon soon rolled out of sight.

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Image copyright Amy Hevron, 2018, text copyright Jim Averbeck, 2018. Courtesy of us.macmillan.com.

Trevor flew into the storm to look for his friend, but he couldn’t find the lemon anywhere. “Trevor cowered among the scattered seeds and wept.” Suddenly, though, a group of colorful birds appeared, wondering if the seeds were Trevor’s and whether  he would share them. He agreed, knowing that the lemon “would have wanted it that way.” In the fall, Trevor and his new friends flew south to spend the winter there. They sang together on their journey. Trevor was happy, “but he never forgot his first shy friend…who gave him everything, and asked for nothing.”

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Image copyright Amy Hevron, 2018, text copyright Jim Averbeck, 2018. Courtesy of us.macmillan.com.

Jim Averbeck’s gentle nudge for children who are hesitant to venture out of their comfort zone tenderly shows how taking a chance and sharing one’s talents or favorite things can lead to positive and rewarding experiences and new friendships. Through Trevor’s friendship with the silent lemon, Averbeck highlights Trevor’s natural kindness, a quality that leads him to find his inner strength and sociability. Cleverly weaving together the ideas of “leaving the nest” and “sowing seeds of friendship,” Averbeck creates a moving storyline that will hearten quieter children and inspire them to reach out in ways that are comfortable and meaningful to them.

Amy Hevron endears little Trevor to readers with her soft acrylics-on-wood illustrations full of sweet hugs and selfless acts that bring this adorable bird his first, best friend. The close-up focus of these images serves to also emphasize Trevor’s loneliness and trepidation when he later turns away from the lemon and overlooks a vast forest. The appearance of a diverse group of birds attracted by Trevor’s seeds will cheer readers, especially as Trevor joins them on their flight south. The last page offers a just-right surprise that gives kids and adults another opportunity to talk about the nature of friendship.

A tribute to formative friendships and self-discovery, Trevor makes an uplifting addition to home, classroom, and public library collections.

Ages 4 – 8

Roaring Brook Press, 2018 | ISBN 978-1250148285

Discover more about Jim Averbeck and his books on his website.

To learn more about Amy Hevron, her books, and her art, visit her website.

National Bird Day Activity

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Cheery Canary Centerpiece

 

Brighten up your winter table with this cute birdy centerpiece! Kids will have fun making their own birds and nest with a couple of lemons and a few easy-to-find supplies.

Supplies

  • Lemons (one for each bird)
  • Googly eyes
  • Toothpicks
  • Yellow tissue paper
  • Yellow felt, fleece, or paper
  • Brown paper sandwich bag
  • Parchment paper or other light paper
  • Strong glue
  • Tape
  • Directions

To Make the Bird

  1. Insert the toothpick into the lemon to make the beak
  2. Glue on the eyes 
  3. Cut a length of tissue paper about 2 inches by 4 inches
  4. Fold the paper in narrow widths accordion style
  5. Pinch one end together and fan out the paper to make the tail
  6. Flatten the pinched end and glue it to the lower back of the lemon
  7. Crumple a bit of tissue paper and glue to the top of the lemon
  8. Cut small wings from the felt, fleece, or paper
  9. Glue the wings to the sides of the lemon

To Make the Nest

  1. Cut the bag open along one side and along the bottom
  2. Roll up the bag and form it into a circle, taping the ends together. (To make a larger nest tape two bags together)
  3. To make the nesting material, cut narrow strips from the parchment or light paper
  4. Fill the ring with the nesting material

Set the bird or birds in the nest

Enjoy!

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You can find Trevor at these booksellers

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Books-a-Million | IndieBound

Picture Book Review