03 January 2013

Review: Gingersnap by Patricia Reilly Giff

When Jayna was still a baby, her parents were killed in a car accident, leaving her to be brought up in a foster home. Fortunately, Jayna's older brother was placed in a home nearby, and they were able to see each other every Sunday. When Rob came of age, he enlisted in the navy, rented a house, and provided Jayna with a home. But when the fighting escalated in the Pacific in 1944, Rob's unit was called for active duty, and Jayna had to move in with their eccentric landlady.

Months later, Rob is reported as missing in action, and Jayna wonders what will happen to her if  he never comes back home. One day, she remembers Rob had a keepsake box and in it was a handwritten recipe booklet with the name and address of a bakery in Brooklyn. In desperation, Jayna decides to use the money Rob left her to buy a train ticket to the city, to search out the woman she believes is her grandmother.

On its simplest level, Patricia Reilly Giff's Gingersnap is a middle grade historical novel about a young girl who is longing for a true home and a family. And that is indeed the central theme of Jayna's story. But Gingersnap is lightened by a helpful ghost (not at all scary), kindly but eccentric adults, a pet turtle, new friends, the sights and smells of a bakery, and Jayna's own soup recipes.

Although the plot is somewhat predictable, young readers will admire Jayna's determination and courage and will hope that she finally finds happiness. Giff creates the wartime atmosphere by including historical details of life on home front in the 1940s, such as hand-delivered War Office telegrams, radio broadcasts, and ration booklets.

Most fun are the half dozen or so recipes for Jayna's wonderful soups, which have names like Feel-Better Vegetable Soup and Hope Soup. Don't be surprised if your young reader has a sudden desire to help you in the kitchen.

Gingersnap is recommended to middle grade readers who like historical fiction, stories with memorable characters, and/or books with recipes.

I listened to the unabridged audio edition (Listening Library, 3 h, 21 min) read by Olivia Campbell. Campbell admirably captured the emotional complexity of the novel while maintaining the vocal range of a preteen girl. This short audio would make a good family listen on a snowy weekend afternoon.

Buy Gingersnap at a bookstore near you.
Random House / Wendy Lamb Books, January 8, 2013
ISBN-13: 9780375838910
Rating: B
Source: Review (see review policy)
Copyright © cbl for Beth Fish Reads, all rights reserved (see review policy).

9 comments:

Julie P. 1/3/13, 6:40 AM  

I just read this one yesterday! Thought it was cute!

(Diane) Bibliophile By the Sea 1/3/13, 6:42 AM  

Not familiar with this one but it sounds like it has possibilities. Thanks for blogging about this one.

Alex 1/3/13, 7:54 AM  

Very nice review. This is definitely a book for me. I like Patricia Reilly Giff so much and the addition of soup recipes, well, I'm there.

bermudaonion 1/3/13, 9:22 AM  

Predictable is fine in a book for young readers because I figure what's predictable for an adult isn't necessarily predictable for a youngster. This book sounds really good to me.

Zibilee 1/3/13, 10:09 AM  

I like the fact that there is so much period detail in the story, and that it's a historical. I think this would be a fun and non-taxing listen, so I will have to see if my library has a copy. Thanks for the very eloquent review today!

Jennifer 1/3/13, 5:33 PM  

I love books with recipes. I also love likeable characters that I can root for and historical fiction. I'm thinking that this might be a book I should pick up sometime in the future.

Karen White 1/4/13, 1:36 PM  

Just checked to confirm and I was right: this is narrated by the teenage daughter of veteran narrator Cassandra Campbell (who directed the book!)!

Joanna 1/4/13, 5:11 PM  

I won't wait for my young reader to grow into this book, I think I'll like it myself. And soup recipes, yay!

Robin McCormack 1/5/13, 1:13 AM  

Sounds like a sweet story.

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