When Jayna’s brother Rob is sent to join the forces fighting in World War II, Jayna has no one to take care of her except for the landlady, who does not seem eager for the responsibility. Jayna has a few clues about a grandmother who might still be living in Brooklyn. She runs away, pet turtle in tow, to search for the grandmother whose bakery boasts Jayna’s nickname, Gingersnap. Jayna discovers that her grandmother died a long time ago, but she makes a new family from the people she meets in Brooklyn, and eventually, her brother comes home. A strange, ghost-like vision follows Jayna through the story and disappears at the end.
Jayna’s impulsiveness is entirely believable, and readers should easily sympathize with her desire to search for her family. She could be any young, over-confident girl in any time period.
There wasn’t much about the story that couldn’t have happened today. Besides the references to rationing, the book could’ve been about any war, current or past. Jayna’s home and the bakery are thoroughly depicted, but little else about the time period or the places Jayna visits is memorably described.
The theme of building a family from the people that are drawn together by Jayna’s presence at Gingersnap is universal. The ghost in the story is still a bit confusing. Jayna never decides who or what the ghost represents, and even the ghosts’ own description of what happens does not help to give the reader any but the murkiest understanding of its role in the story. Ghost aside, the author based the book on her childhood war memories (Kirkus 2015).
According to Kirkus, “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” (2015). Publishers Weekly says that “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” (2015).
NUMBER THE STARS by Lois Lowry
STEPPING ON THE CRACKS by Mary Downing Hahn
SUMMER OF MY GERMAN SOLDIER by Bette Greene
An important theme of the book is revealed when Jayna’s search for her family ends and she decides that she has made a family out of the unrelated people that gather at Gingersnap Bakery. Make a family tree that reflects all of the important relationships in your life, not just your biological and legal connections.
Giff, Patricia Reilly. 2013. Gingersnap. New York: Wendy Lamb Books. ISBN 9780375838910
Kirkus Reviews. “Gingersnap.” Accessed October 19, 2015. https://www.kirkusreviews.com/book-reviews/patricia-reilly-giff/gingersnap/
“Pastries-756601_1920.” From Pixabay. Accessed October 19, 2015. https://pixabay.com/en/pastries-bake-sweet-brownie-756601/
Publishers Weekly. “Gingersnap.” Accessed October 19, 2015. http://www.publishersweekly.com/978-0-375-83891-0