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5.0 1
by Patricia Reilly Giff

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It's 1944, W.W. II is raging. Jayna's big brother Rob is her only family. When Rob is called to duty on a destroyer, Jayna is left in their small town in upstate New York with their cranky landlady. But right before he leaves, Rob tells Jayna a secret: they may have a grandmother in Brooklyn. Rob found a little blue recipe book with her name and an address for a


It's 1944, W.W. II is raging. Jayna's big brother Rob is her only family. When Rob is called to duty on a destroyer, Jayna is left in their small town in upstate New York with their cranky landlady. But right before he leaves, Rob tells Jayna a secret: they may have a grandmother in Brooklyn. Rob found a little blue recipe book with her name and an address for a bakery. When Jayna learns that Rob is missing in action, she's devastated. Along with her turtle Theresa, the recipe book, and an encouraging, ghostly voice as her guide, Jayna sets out for Brooklyn in hopes of finding the family she so desperately needs.

Editorial Reviews

Children's Literature - Jennifer Lehmann
Jayna's big brother Rob is all the family she has left. When he leaves to fight on a battleship in World War II, she must stay with their landlady, finicky Celine. Jayna finds an old recipe book written in French that may hold the key to their past and their family. Then, she gets a telegram that her brother is missing, and she travels to Brooklyn to find a bakery with an awning that bears her nickname, Gingersnap. She is accompanied by a ghost who has Jayna's same red hair but no memory of who she was before she died. In Brooklyn, Jayna finds a woman who she believes is her grandmother. In seeking the answers to her past and the parents she never knew, Jayna just may find the family she is seeking. While the ghostly presence occasionally feels like an unnecessary plot device, the character does add to the story's humor and feeling of mystery. The historical context is richly described, but the story is timeless and engaging enough to attract readers who do not normally enjoy historical fiction. Jayna's recipes for soup at the end of each chapter connect nicely to the story. They are simple enough for a young reader to attempt, but unspecific enough to require adult help. Several recipes would work well in a classroom situation, with each student providing something for the pot, as in Stone Soup. Reviewer: Jennifer Lehmann
School Library Journal
Gr 5–8—Jayna and her older brother have lived together in a rented house ever since Rob was legally old enough to take custody after their parents' death. Both are adept in the kitchen: the 11-year-old specializes in soup; Rob is now a Navy cook preparing to join a destroyer crew in the Pacific. He has arranged for Jayna to live with their landlady, Celine, while he is deployed. Jayna's narration is fresh, honest, and plausible as she describes how she is guided by a voice, perhaps a ghost, but certainly a helpful presence. When she and Celine are notified that Rob is missing in action, Jayna leaves upstate New York for the long trek to Brooklyn. There, armed only with an old inscribed cookbook with an address, encouragement from the ghost, and the company of a turtle named Theresa, she hopes to locate their grandmother. Though she doesn't find her, she connects with her own family history to discover that she has relatives, friends, and a future. Near the end of the war, Rob returns with a bit of help from the ghost suggested, perhaps a bit conveniently but satisfying nonetheless. Jayna's understanding of the complexity and kindness of others grows as she does, providing fuller characterizations. While the story is set during World War II, the separation of families and fear of loss in this novel is very contemporary. Jayna's soup recipes placed between chapters reflect her concerns and triumphs in this gratifying story of hope, faith, and family ties.—Maria B. Salvadore, formerly at District of Columbia Public Library
Publishers Weekly
Giff smoothly intertwines threads of loss, displacement, hope, family, and the soothing power of food (especially soup) in a quiet but emotionally charged novel set during WWII. Jayna—nicknamed Gingersnap by her mother, who died in a car accident along with the girl’s father—feels understandably alone after her only relative, her older brother Rob, goes missing while serving in the Navy. Inspired by items from her mother’s past that she finds, and urged on by the voice of a ghost, Jayna packs up the turtle she’s adopted and runs away from upstate New York to Brooklyn. The ghost (who Jayna believes to be her mother) promises to help her find a family, and Giff’s deft plotting leads the girl to find just that, in surprising and satisfying ways. The pacing falters occasionally—it takes Jayna a while to share information that she knows links her to the kindly bakery owner who takes her in—but Jayna’s yearning to belong and desperate longing for her brother’s safe return give this story its soulful core. Ages 9–12. Agent: George Nicholson, Sterling Lord Literistic. (Jan.)
From the Publisher
Starred Review, Kirkus Reviews, November 15, 2012:
“Jayna’s journey is a memorable one.”
VOYA - Amanda Fensch
Jayna and her older brother, Rob, live in a sleepy little town in upstate New York. Their lives would be idyllic if it were not 1945 and the height of World War II. When Rob is called away to service in the Pacific, Jayne is left in the care of their rather odd, persnickety landlady, Celine. Jayna's knack for making soup does not comfort her while Rob is gone, but the little blue recipe book he left for her gives her courage; it is the only tie to her family she has left. After finding out that Rob has gone missing in action, Jayna travels to Brooklyn to find the owner of the recipe book, a woman Rob thought could be their grandmother. At a bakery in Brooklyn, Jayna finds out, not just about the history of her family, but also the meaning behind her nickname, Gingersnap. Most importantly, she discovers her own strengths and the real meaning of family. Giff is a well-known, much-touted author, and for good reason. This book, while an easy and short read, packs a lot of feeling into so few words. Giff's simple prose and realistic story line are a joy, and it is apparent that she is a master of her craft. This book may not have wide appeal, but younger readers interested in historical reads or who like books that are not mainstream should enjoy this cozy title. Reviewer: Amanda Fensch
Kirkus Reviews
Giff is one of few writers who can entwine an odd lot of characters, set them in Brooklyn during World War II, flavor the story with soup recipes, add a ghost and infuse the plot with a longing for family--and make it all believable. When Jayna's brother leaves for submarine duty, she's left to stay with their cranky landlady (their parents died in a car accident). She remembers an old, blue recipe book inscribed with a name and address in Brooklyn and becomes convinced the woman in a photo standing in front of a bakery named Gingersnap (her nickname) is her grandmother. With her pet box turtle, Theresa, in a cat carrier and the recipe book in her suitcase, she takes a bus into New York City and the subway to Brooklyn. Through a series of misfortunes, she finds the bakery and its owner, Elise. Is Elise her grandmother? Will Rob return from the war? Who is the ghost wearing Jayna's toenail polish with only her hands and feet visible, and can she connect with Rob? Will Theresa survive? Jayna's eight tasty soup recipes befit the circumstances as they unfold: Don't-Think-About-It Soup, Hope Soup, Waiting Soup and so forth. The author's note to readers refers to her own childhood war memories, lending dimension to the characters and plot. Unfortunately, the cover image of a girl with a suitcase walking by brownstone houses won't entice readers, though the story itself is riveting. While the outcome is foreseeable, Jayna's journey is a memorable one. (Historical fiction. 9-12)

Product Details

Random House Children's Books
Publication date:
Sold by:
Random House
Sales rank:
540L (what's this?)
File size:
2 MB
Age Range:
8 - 12 Years

What People are Saying About This

From the Publisher
Starred Review, Kirkus Reviews, November 15, 2012:
“Jayna’s journey is a memorable one.”

Meet the Author

PATRICIA REILLY GIFF is the author of many beloved books for children, including the Kids of the Polk Street School books. Several of her novels for middle-grade readers have been chosen as ALA-ALSC Notable Books and ALA-YALSA Best Books for Young Adults. They include The Gift of the Pirate Queen; All the Way Home; Water Street; Nory Ryan's Song, a Society of Children's Book Writers and Illustrators Golden Kite Honor Book for Fiction; and the Newbery Honor books Lily's Crossing and Pictures of Hollis Woods. Lily's Crossing was also chosen as a Boston Globe-Horn Book Honor Book. Her most recent novels are R My Name Is Rachel, Storyteller, Eleven, and Wild Girl; her books for younger readers in the Zigzag Kids series include Number One Kid, Big Whopper, and Flying Feet. 

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Gingersnap 5 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 1 reviews.
arlenadean More than 1 year ago
Author: Patricia Reilly Giff Published by: Wendy Lamb Books Age Recommended: Children 10 + Reviewed By: Arlena Dean Book Blog For: GMTA Rating: 5 Review: "Gingersnap" by Patricia Reilly Giff was a very well written read that will give us some historical history that was going on during WWII. Along with this being a family read it does have some ghost issues. This author is a wonderful story teller being about to take you so a different time. This was during a time in history WWII when a brother (Rob)after becoming of age, had been taking care of his sister (Jayna) nicknamed 'Gingersnap.' Rob is called to duty and has to leave his dear sister who had once been in foster care, now in the care of a landlady, Celine. All was well until a tragedy happens to Rob's vessel sunk in the 'Battle of Okinawa' and once again Jayna is feeling alone. Jayna had been told by her brother about a 'cookbook' that had the name and address of a bakery called Gingersnap...so what will she do with this information? Is her brother alive and will they be united? Who is this owner of this bakery? What was the ghost all about? What's up with the soups..."Don't Think About it Soup" or "Feel Better Vegetable Soup." This is where I way you must pick up this good read to see what all is going to happen with Jayna. All of these questions will be answered from your read. The characters were all well developed and interesting. "Gingersnap" was a wonderful read of 'family, hope, courage and food.' Would I recommend this read? Yes! Be ready to enjoy a excellent read.