WW2 backdrop for defining family
Gingersnap by Patricia Reilly Giff; Random House Children’s Books, New York, 2013; 147 pages.
Jayna’s only living relative, that she knows of, is her brother Rob. When Rob ships out for Okinawa during World War II, she is left in the care of their landlady. Before he left, Rob mentioned a box with a mystery diary, what seems to be a collection of recipes written in French. Distraught by the news that Rob is missing in action, Jayna searches for the book. Clues begin to add up: a bakery named “Gingersnap” (Jayna’s nickname) in Brooklyn (where Rob always said they belonged). With bags packed, Jayna searches for any family connection and discovers that family means so much more than blood-ties.
This heart-touching story of a girl in search of family transcends the setting of the book. World War II lessons of hardship, like rationing, are heavily featured, and present teachable moments about that period in our history. But the real story is of hope, patience, and what ties bind us together through all of life’s hardship and happiness.
I loved Giff’s addition of Jayna’s recipes for soup in the book. Her skill in making soup from next to nothing was a key to Jayna’s character. By adding the simple recipes, children can be encouraged to experiment with ingredients themselves–whether those ingredients are art materials, pencil and paper, or veggies from the refrigerator.
So many connections can be made by librarians and teachers. A basic soup cookbook for kids could be paired with it for a “better together” book display. I think this book compared & contrasted with other tales of American children during World War II would be an interesting display or recommended to read together. Imagine Navigating Early (Clare Vanderpool), The Green Glass Sea (Ellen Klages), and maybe My Chocolate Year: A Novel with 12 Recipes (Charlotte Herman) bundled together?
I am not surprised that Gingersnap got a starred review in Kirkus. It’s a wonderful story for readers aged 8-12.