Monday, February 18, 2013

MMGM: Gingersnap by Patricia Reilly Giff

Date Published: January 8, 2013
ISBN: 0375938915
Genre: Historical Fiction
Themes: Family, home, friendship, food, wartime  

About The Book: 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.
First Line: Just a couple of dreams?

One Great Line: You can't help but love the simple recipes that Jayna shares throughout the book. Here's my favorite. 

What Others Are Saying: "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." —Kirkus Starred Reviews

"Not full of difficult vocabulary, the book is a gem of character development. Perfect to use when teaching third through fifth graders about character traits. All the characters in the book have unique characters traits that are created and solidified during the course of the book.
This would be a wonderful read aloud or a great book for small group discussion. Great choice for a classroom teacher or a young book group." —The Examiner

Some Other Bloggers Weigh In:
The Children's War
Book Mama

My Analysis:
1. POV is consistently first person through Jayna's perspective and
2. 160 pages
3. The Hook: Giff uses an interesting introduction labeled "Afterward" where Jayna actually tempts the reader: "If you don't believe in ghosts or voices that c ome out of almost nowhere, there's probably no sense in reading what I have to say." What middle grader could resist some reverse psychology?
4. Inciting event: Rob leaves to fight in the war.
5. Plot and Pace: The character driven plot had several twists and lots of tension on every page.
6. Voice: It was easy to submerge myself into Jayna's world because her voice was believable and very middle grade.

What I Thought Overall: I really enjoyed Jayna's journey to find home. The universal themes of family and self discovery that led her and then the mysterious ghost all kept me reading. Add to that the historical setting, Brooklyn, the food and the relationships together wrapped me in a cozy blanket during this quick read. Amazing how much happened in only 160 short pages.  

About The Author: 
     Patricia Reilly Giff
Blog (Hasn't been updated since 6/11)

Who: "In Brooklyn, there's a garden so small I could almost put my arms around it: Emily's garden. I stop to look at it whenever I go back. I walk from there along the streets my parents and grandparents must have walked when they were young. I keep looking up because in front of me is the most beautiful bridge in the world.

"Ah, that Brooklyn Bridge. It's so delicate, so lovely. It's hard to believe that its hundredth birthday was a long time ago. It's hard to believe that men scrambled deep under the East River in caissons to begin that bridge, that they hung in chairs high overhead to finish it.

"I wrote Water Street because I love Brooklyn and that bridge, and because a woman named Emily finished the bridge during a time when women stayed home. But more, I wrote it because the Mallon family is alive to me: Nory and Sean, Bird, and Thomas Neary, Bird's friend. The love they have for each other is like the love I find every day in my own family. And they remind me of what it must have been like to live in Brooklyn in those long ago days when the bridge was being built.

"I hope you enjoy the story of these people. Maybe you'll go to Brooklyn as I do, and see Emily's garden and that beautiful bridge." —Patricia Reilly Giff

"I want the children to bubble up with laughter, or to cry over my books. I want to picture them under a cherry tree or at the library with my book in their hands. But more, I want to see them reading in the classroom. I want to see children in solitude at their desks, reading, absorbing, lost in a book."—Giff

If you haven't read any of Giff's other books here's a great list to check out. Talk about a prolific writer! She's received multiple honors for several of her books: The Newbery Honor for Pictures of Hollis Woods and Lily's Crossing, which is also a Boston Globe—Horn Book Honor Book. Nory Ryan's Song was named an ALA Best Book for Young Adults and an ALA Notable Book.

Next week: Newbery Medal Winner Moon Over Manifest by Clare Vanderpool 

The list of MMGM Reviewers has really grown, be sure to stop by some of the others. You can find them in my sidebar!!


  1. Great review! This sounds like a great book!

  2. Sorry, Kirkus--I actually like the cover. It sounds like a great story from an author I greatly admire.

  3. I loved this book and read it straight through. I also liked the cover. This one is really worth the time.

  4. I like Giff and I am looking forward to reading this. I love the cover too!

  5. This sounds like a book I would enjoy! I love books set in a different time period.

  6. Oh, a new book by PRG! I'd love to get hold of this.

  7. I am a big fan of this author and I am so happy to have read this review. I will be starting my HF unit with my class soon and this sounds like a wonderful addition to it! I especially liked hearing more about where Patricia Reilly Giff gets her ideas. I enjoy visiting Brooklyn and will have to look for the garden!


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