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Book Review

This book has been reviewed by Focus on the Family’s marriage and parenting magazine.

Positive Elements

Spiritual Content

Sexual Content

Violent Content

Crude or Profane Language

Drug and Alcohol Content

Other Negative Elements


Pro-social Content

Objectionable Content

Summary Advisory

Plot Summary

During World War II, Jayna moves into a house in New York with her older brother, Rob. The two siblings live on their own, because several years earlier both their parents died in an automobile accident. They manage to live well — Rob is an excellent cook, and Jayna makes delicious soups (some of her recipes are included in the book). However, their world is disrupted when Rob has to serve as a cook in the Navy, on a destroyer called the Muldoon.

The week before Rob is deployed, he and Jayna prepare dinner for their stern landlady, Celine. Much to Jayna's displeasure, Celine agrees to become her caretaker. While Jayna wades out into the pond behind their house to check on her turtle, named Theresa, Rob finds a stone formed into the shape of a funny face and gives it to Jayna for good luck.

Celine eats dinner at Jayna's house. Out of the corner of Jayna's eye, she sees a wisp of curly red hair, just like her own, and hears a soft, high voice speaking to her. The source of this voice is ambiguous. Jayna chooses to ignore it.

Later, Jayna asks Rob a few questions about their parents. While his memory is fuzzy, Rob remembers their parents were French and tells Jayna that he has their recipe book. The book mentions a bakery in New York and a grandmother. It is written in French.

While her brother is away, Jayna writes him letters. Although she lives with Celine, she occasionally stops by her old house, only to encounter the same voice that she thought she had imagined. The voice warns Jayna about someone coming. A day later, the person mentioned does come and delivers a telegram that states Rob is missing in action.

When Jayna takes the recipe book from her old house, she finds a photo of the bakery he mentioned — called Gingersnap — which is coincidentally Jayna's nickname. Jayna also finds an address and an old photo of a woman named Elise, who Jayna believes is her grandmother. The voice urges Jayna to go to Brooklyn and find the bakery. Jayna packs a suitcase with clothes, money and the recipe book. She also brings her turtle and the funny-looking stone Rob gave her. She leaves a note saying she is visiting family.

Jayna makes her way between subway stations until she arrives at Coney Island, where she goes to the beach. After running through the waves, Jayna notices her suitcase is gone, just as the voice said would happen. With no remaining possessions, Jayna finds the bakery on Carey Street, which is run by a baker named Elise, just as in the recipe book. Too embarrassed to ask if she is her grandmother, Jayna falls asleep in the garden behind the bakery until the voice urges her to speak with Elise.

Jayna catches sight of Elise making dinner and asks if she can speak with her. After Elise welcomes her inside, Jayna hesitates to ask her if she is related, and instead listens to the story of how Elise grew up during the Great War in France. Since the start of World War II, Elise has been trying to keep the bakery running, despite the rations on eggs, butter and sugar. She allows Jayna to stay for one night on the condition that she return home later. The next day, Jayna explains that she has no family and that she is staying with her landlady. They telephone Celine, and Jayna is allowed to stay in Brooklyn for a few weeks, where she befriends a few of the regular customers, including a boy her age named Andrew and his sister, Millie.

At the bakery, Jayna makes soup in return for Elise's hospitality. The soup is so good that Elise agrees to let Jayna make it for the bakery. Jayna soon learns that Elise is not her grandmother. Meanwhile, Andrew and Millie help her build a new fence around the garden so the turtle can have a place to live.

Jayna returns to Coney Island and finds the recipe book she lost. It is buried in the sand under a bench, with the writing on some of the pages smeared from the water. She shows Elise the book, which belonged to her, but was lost when they left their house in France. She knew it was safe when her friend, Jayna's grandmother, kept it for safekeeping. The two opened a bakery in New York together when Jayna was a baby. They named the bakery Gingersnap after her.

Later that night, Jayna talks to the voice and asks it to give the good luck stone to her brother. She hopes that he will see it and be encouraged if he is still alive. Celine comes for a surprise visit, and Jayna suddenly realizes that these people have become a family to her.

Jayna receives a call from Celine the following day, saying she received two telegrams. Rob is alive and has been recovering in a hospital in the Philippines. Second, he is on his way home. Rob meets Jayna at the bakery in Brooklyn, and they are able to live their dream of having a restaurant together in New York. He explains that after his ship was wrecked, he was stranded on a raft for several days. He thought of Jayna a lot. Then suddenly, he saw a rock that looked like the funny stone face they had found in the pond before he left.

Christian Beliefs


Other Belief Systems

A voice occasionally talks to Jayna. While this voice is ambiguous in its source, it is a critical role in Jayna's decisions. Jayna's brother gives her a rock for good luck, but it only serves a symbolic purpose. Later, he sees a rock similar to it. There is an implication that the voice had brought it to him.

Authority Roles

Jayna looks up to her older brother, who is the main authority figure in her life. She also respects Elise and tries to help her with her bakery. Jayna does not get along with Celine at first and thinks she is too strict; however, she later notices that Celine has done much to help her and her brother, and she shows gratitude toward Celine.


There are no descriptions of violence in the book; however, naval war and its effects are mentioned, including loss of family and soldiers being lost at sea. The book also mentions that Jayna's parents died in a car accident.



Discussion Topics

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Additional Comments/Notes

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Book reviews cover the content, themes and worldviews of fiction books, not their literary merit, and equip parents to decide whether a book is appropriate for their children. The inclusion of a book's review does not constitute an endorsement by Focus on the Family.

Episode Reviews



Readability Age Range

8 to 12


Patricia Reilly Giff






Record Label



Wendy Lamb Books, a division of Random House Inc.


On Video

Year Published





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