Every Saturday, I host a feature called Kid Konnection -- a regular weekend feature about anything related to children's books. This week, I'm going to share with you a very sweet middle grade book by a two-time Newbery Honor-winning author.
Summary: 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. -- Wendy Lamb Books
When I received a copy of GINGERSNAP by Patricia Reilly Giff in the mail, I was immediately drawn to the cover. This picture of the young girl walking by the row houses gave me the impression that this book took place in the past, and I found myself scrambling to learn more about the story. Turns out that GINGERSNAP is a historical fiction middle grade novel. It takes place during the last year of World War II and tells the story of an orphaned young girl named Jayna whose brother is called to serve on a destroyer in the Pacific.
The fears surrounding the war are a constant force in the novel; however, most of the story is really Jayna's. Right before her brother leaves, he reveals that they might have a grandmother who lives in Brooklyn. When Jayna learns that her brother is missing in action, she goes looking for a recipe book that he had mentioned in hopes of learning more about her grandmother. She discovers that the book is full of French recipes, but it also mentions her nickname and a bakery address in Brooklyn. Feeling that she has nothing to lose, Jayna ventures out on her own to Brooklyn to locate her grandmother.
Despite some mishaps along the way, Jayna is able to locate the bakery; however, she learns that things aren't always what they seem. More importantly, she realizes some very important lessons about love, friendship, and family.
I thought GINGERSNAP was a delightful middle grade book. Jayna was truly sweet and I loved her courage and determination. As a mother, my heart went out to her not only for losing her parents, but then losing her brother too. She was forced to live with a virtual stranger (who was a bit different) and she didn't seem to have a lot of friends besides her pet turtle. I especially liked that Jayna was such a master soup chef. The author even included a variety of Jayna's soup recipes with her personal notes!
I also loved how the author incorporated so much World War II history in this story. As someone who enjoys getting my history lessons from novels, I love that there are quality books out there for kids who feel the same way! In addition to all of the information about the war in the Pacific, I appreciated how the author brought 1940s Brooklyn to life. I loved the descriptions of the streets, the people, and the shops, and I especially liked the details about the bakery -- how they had to make due without butter and eggs.
One element of the story that I was a bit surprised that I liked as much as I did had to do with a ghost. I'm not usually one for supernatural elements thrown into a story, but I think in the case of GINGERSNAP, this ghostly voice really worked. I have my own ideas about this "presence," but I'd be very curious to talk to some late elementary age children to get their impressions.
GINGERSNAP actually would be a wonderful book for mother/daughter book clubs or even classroom discussions. The book does introduce some important aspects of our history, but it also has some wonderful lessons. Some of the themes you might want to further explore include war, love, family, sacrifice, respect, longing, and hope.
In conclusion, I adored GINGERSNAP for many reasons, but especially for the messages that the novel conveyed.
Thanks to the publisher for providing a review copy of this novel.
If you'd like to participate in Kid Konnection and share a post about anything related to children's books (picture, middle grade, or young adult) from the past week, please leave a comment as well as a link below with your name/blog name and the title of the book! Feel free to grab the little button too!