Reviews for Gingersnap

Booklist Reviews 2012 December #2
Toward the end of World War II, orphaned Jayna lives with her older brother, Rob, a cook in the navy. He ships out for the Pacific, leaving her in their landlady's care. When his ship is sunk and he is listed as missing, Jayna fears that Rob will never return. Hoping to find a grandmother she has never known, she runs away to nearby Brooklyn, where she is taken in by a kind lady who runs a bakery. Throughout the novel, a ghost resembling Jayna sometimes speaks to her, appears to her, or acts on her behalf. As in the Newbery Honor Book Lily's Crossing (1997) and its companion book Willow Run (2005), Giff offers an accessible chapter book with highly individual characters and a convincing picture of life on the home front. Jayna often makes soup, and related recipes appear between chapters. Though parts of the story seem as improbable as daydreams, readers will be swept along by Jayna's first-person narrative and moved by the novel's ending. Copyright 2012 Booklist Reviews.

Horn Book Guide Reviews 2013 Fall
In 1945, a ghost girl points Jayna to a tattered notebook containing recipes, a photo of a woman, and an address in Brooklyn. After receiving devastating news that older brother Rob is missing in action, Jayna sets off to locate the woman in the picture, whom she thinks is her grandmother. The ghost adds an element of mystery to the story's well-wrought wartime milieu.

Horn Book Magazine Reviews 2013 #1
In 1945 upstate New York, Jayna is distraught when her older brother, Rob, is deployed to Japan. Rob is the only family she has; their parents were killed in a car accident when Jayna was a baby, and now she's in the care of a stern neighbor. Soon after Rob leaves, Jayna starts hearing the voice of a ghost girl -- who points her to a tattered notebook containing handwritten recipes, a photo of a woman standing in front of a bakery, and an address in Brooklyn. After receiving the devastating news that Rob is missing in action, Jayna sets off to locate the woman in the picture, Elise, whom she thinks is her grandmother. Things don't turn out exactly the way Jayna expected, but she finds new friends who come together to act as a strong support system for her. Giff's well-wrought setting depicts the difficulties of home-front life without losing sight of its glimmers of comfort. Food rations notwithstanding, the main characters share talents for baking and cooking, and the warmth of their relationships is rewardingly reflected in sensory descriptions of Rob's thick gravies, Elise's fresh-baked pastries, and Jayna's steaming soups (recipes for "Hope Soup," "Waiting Soup," "Welcome-Home Soup," etc., appear throughout the book). The ghost's presence adds an element of mystery (left unsolved) that leaves room for instances of chance and serendipity to occur in the midst of the story's wartime milieu. elissa gershowitz

Kirkus Reviews 2012 November #2
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) Copyright Kirkus 2012 Kirkus/BPI Communications.All rights reserved.

Publishers Weekly Reviews 2012 November #3

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.)

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School Library Journal Reviews 2013 February

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

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VOYA Reviews 2013 April
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.--Amanda Fensch 4Q 3P M Copyright 2011 Voya Reviews.