It’s 1944 and Jayna’s brother, Rob, has to go off to war. Unfortunately, he is her only family because her parents died in an accident years before. Rob gives her a funny shaped rock he says looks like her, and he mentions that when he comes back they’ll go to Brooklyn because he thinks there is a chance they have a grandmother living there. Jayna is worried about Rob, and she is unhappy that she has to stay with their landlady while he is away. Jayna starts seeing a ghost with pink nail polish who tells her to find the recipe book hidden in Rob’s closet. The book is old and has a picture of a woman in it that Jayna hopes is her grandmother. After she receives a telegram that her brother’s boat is missing, she overhears their landlady complaining about needing to take care of her. She is distraught, but the ghost whispers in her ear that she should go to Brooklyn and find her grandma. The ghost tells her not to pack the recipe book, but to carry it because she is going to lose her suitcase. But what could the ghost know? Jayna takes her savings and hops a bus to Brooklyn with her beloved turtle. The trip isn’t easy, but she finally makes it to the bakery, Gingersnap. When she sees the owner, Elise, she knows this is the woman from the recipe book- only Jayna is too scared to tell her who she is and to ask if they are related. Elise shows Jayna kindness and allows her a place to rest. Has Jayna found her grandma? Will she be able to stay with her forever? Is there any way that Jayna will ever see Rob again? Who is the ghost and how does she seem to know what will happen to her? You will definitely root for Jayna and hope that she finds her happy ending.
I would recommend Gingersnap by Patricia Reilly Giff to anyone who enjoys historical fiction in grades four and up. I was lucky enough to listen to the audio of this wonderful book narrated by Olivia Campbell. She did an excellent job capturing Jayna’s voice and personality. The variety of voices for the different characters helped the book come alive for me. It was so fun stepping back in time and hearing about radio shows and actors from so long ago. This book reminded me how hard it was for the people who were displaced during the war and how brave kids needed to be during that time. Jayna is pretty grown up for her age, and she knows that life isn’t easy. War makes people have to grow up sooner, and that is sad. I would have a difficult time if my brother was fighting in a war, and I didn’t know what would happen to me if he didn’t come back. I could easily connect to Jayna and enjoyed her personality and amusing comments. She is someone I would be friends with, and I would love to have some of the delicious soup she makes throughout the story (the recipes are a great addition). My mouth also watered at all the delicious cakes and cookies that Elise made, even with war rations. I have to admit that this story made me tear up at more than one part, but that just added to the realistic nature of the book. This was a heartwarming story with lessons that ring true for all of us. I only wish I could pop by Gingersnap Bakery and have some coffee and cake with Jayna and friends.
Has anyone else read Gingersnap? Or have you read another book Patricia Reilly Giff? A special thanks to Alex from The Children's War for introducing me to this fabulous book!