Jayna is a young girl growing up without parents during World War II. So, when her only living sibling is sent to war, she is left with her prickly landlady. She meets a remarkable ghost who stays with her and helps her get through the tough times. Jayna decides to leave--giving Celine, the land lady, "her life back" and go to Brooklyn to try to find her family. There she finds some unexpected friends and pieces of her past.
Don't let the ghost in the book stop you from reading it. I don't care for ghost stories, and while there is a ghost in the story, I think it is safe to say that this is definitely not a ghost story. But the the ghost does help Jayna makes some scary choices, and she helps make the tidy ending believable.
I loved how believable the characters were. From an obstinate child, a sharp landlady, a confused ghost, and a considerate brother, Giff captures them all. And the relationships, even with the characters who don't show up until toward the end of the book, are loving, encouraging, and real.
Jayna uses food--and cooking--to help herself feel better, and interspersed throughout the story are recipes. They all sound delicious, but, unless you have a knack for cooking, they are a little hard to follow. Her Feel-Better Vegetable Soup is a great example. The ingredients call for whatever is in the icebox. Who knows what that could be? But, probably the funniest parts of her recipes are her instructions for making it:
"Throw it all in and let it simmer. You don't have to pay much attention. Stop cooking when you get sick of waiting."
"Breathe it in as you sip. Think of the steam, the saltiness, the warmth."Jayna is a really funny girl, and I was constantly laughing at her side commentary. Overall, I loved this book, and would recommend it to all readers--especially middle grade readers.
by Patricia Reilly Giff
published by Wendy Lamb Books
Recommended for middle grade readers