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)