Gingersnap by Patricia Reilly Giff
Jayna’s older brother Rob rescued her from foster care but now he is called to duty on a destroyer during World War II. Both brother and sister love to cook: Jayna’s specialty is soup. The two don’t have any other family in the world, so Rob leaves Jayna with their landlady who is always lecturing Jayna about manners. Right before he leaves, Rob tells Jayna about a recipe book he found that may have belonged to their grandmother. It contains an address for a bakery in Brooklyn. When Rob is listed as missing in action, Jayna decides to travel to Brooklyn to discover if her grandmother still has a bakery there. She takes her pet turtle with her and also a ghost who has been helping lead her in the right direction. But what will she find when she gets to Brooklyn?
Giff has created a very pleasant mix of historical fiction and ghost story in this novel. At the center is a young girl and her wish for a family, which propels the action in the story. I appreciated that while the ending is satisfying it is not the perfect vision that young Jayna had been searching for. Some may say though that it’s even better. The ghost is not frightening at all, instead she borrows nail polish and even clothing. She offers opinions on what is happening, most of which are helpful and get Jayna to make decisions more quickly.
It is the historical piece that is very special here. I appreciated a young girl who could not just cook but excelled at it. The food shortage is vital to the story as is the war itself. Later in the book, readers also get to hear about the first World War and its impact. This is a book about the homefront, made more dynamic by one untidy little ghost.
A treat for readers, this book should be embraced by teachers looking for fiction about World War II. The setting is strong, the characters memorable and the food enticing. Appropriate for ages 9-12.
Reviewed from copy received from Random House Children’s Books.