In the mid-1940s, Jayna lives in small town America with her 18-year-old brother Rob, a navy cook. The two talk often about the day they will move to New York City and open a restaurant where Rob will cook all day and Jayna will make soups (her specialty). Jayna often asks Rob about her parents, who died when she was a baby, and Rob never says much, but Jayna learns that her mother gave her the nickname Gingersnap. A girl ghost, who looks a little like Jayna, begins visiting the young girl and delivering vague warnings about the future. Before Rob leaves to serve aboard a battleship destined for the war in the Pacific, he tells Jayna about a box in his closet that has some family mementos. When Rob’s battleship goes down and he is missing in action, Jayna looks through the box. A cookbook and the ghost tell Jayna that she has a grandmother she never knew about in Brooklyn, and so the young girl, and the ghost, set out to find her.
Gingersnap is a sweet story of loss and love, of family and cooking. Many of the chapters begin with simple soup recipes, comfort food made from the few ingredients available during the war. The effects of war on children is shown in subtle and simple terms. The somewhat ambiguous ghost character lends an element of the mysterious. The themes, the ghost, and the food, all make this book an excellent opportunity for classroom learning, discussion and fun.