“Gingersnap” by Patricia Reilly Giff; Wendy Lamb Books, 160 pages ($15.99). Ages 9 to 12.

The author of many beloved books for middle-grade readers has another winner in this World War II story set in an upstate New York town and in Brooklyn.

Jayna was orphaned in a car accident and lived in foster homes until her older brother, Rob, turned 18 and became her guardian. The two enjoy being a family (both of them love to cook and the book includes lots of soup recipes), but then Rob leaves to serve as a cook in the Navy in the Pacific during World War II and Jayna is left in the care of her difficult landlady. Then Jayna finds an old journal mentioning someone Jayna believes might be her long-lost grandmother, so she leaves home, traveling by bus to Brooklyn with her pet turtle in a cat carrier, determined to track the woman down.

This book paints a vivid picture of what it was like for people whose loved ones were off amid the terrible danger of World War II, their worries and also the rationing of things like sugar, butter and meat. The author weaves a ghostly voice into this story that speaks to Jayna when she is most alone and some readers might like that and some might not.

This author has written many books but she won Newbery Honors for “Lily’s Crossing” and “Pictures of Hollis Woods.”

– Jean Westmoore


The Theatre of Youth will present “James & the Giant Peach” at 7 p.m. Friday and 2 p.m. Saturday and Sunday at 203 Allen St. Tickets are $24-$26. Also, a character brunch will be held at noon Sunday at Quaker Bonnet, 175 Allen St. Cost is $15. For information, call 884-4400, Ext. 304, or visit


Taste is a perception or experience brought to you by your taste buds. Taste buds allow people to taste things that are salty, sour, bitter or sweet. Humans experience taste because molecules in food and drink interact with taste receptors in the mouth. Candy is sweet because the molecules in sugar react with our taste receptors. Water contains nothing to trigger our taste receptors. So, water seems to be tasteless to us. Drink up!

– Time Book of Why