SOMETIMES ONE LITTLE KISS CAN CHANGE EVERYTHING, ESPECIALLY ONE FROM A WORLD FAMOUS HERO OF THE AMERICAN REVOLUTION! Now available in print, digital, and audio editions. Gold Medalist (Middle School/Historical Fiction) Literary Classics Award; 1st Place Winner (Historical Fiction) Purple Dragonfly Book Awards; Bronze Medalist (Juvenile/Young Adult Fiction) eLit Awards; Finalist, (Historical Fiction) Red City Book Awards; Quarter Finalist (Middle Grade) Booklife Prize; Finalist (Young Adult) Book Excellence Awards. Also named on the Grateful American Kids website as one of the best history book for kids to read. Clever young Clara Hargraves has a couple of big problems. First of all, she has a new stepmother, formerly her old maid schoolteacher aunt, who keeps trying to make Clara behave like a lady. Secondly, she has red hair, which means she is constantly teased, especially by an older boy, Dickon, and her beautiful cousin, Hetty. During the last week of June, 1825, Clara's small New Hampshire town is buzzing about the upcoming visit to the state by the Revolutionary War hero, General Lafayette. Could an unexpected playful kiss from a charming, world-famous Frenchman change Clara's life forever?
For those of you who do not live in New England, the reference to black flies might be conjuring up the wrong picture. We have lived all over the US, and have therefore experienced Minnesota mosquitoes (sometimes called the state bird); fleas in the yard in Nashville, and chiggers in Illinois. None of this prepared us for the onslaught of black flies in New Hampshire. Although they are so tiny they can barely be seen, the pain from bites by these little horrors can last for days and days. And days. Ouch. When is the Dread Black Fly Season, you ask? Most people here say they last from Mother's Day to Father's Day. As A BUSS FROM LAFAYETTE is set in late June, Clara is pretty safe from their bites out in the berry patch.
Ok, ok. I admit it. The only reason I chose "Priscilla" for the name of Clara's stepmother was because I could then use "Prissy" as her nickname. I decided this was an excellent way to convey exactly how Clara regarded her former old maid schoolteacher aunt. Please watch for the moment in which Clara finally calls Prissy "Mother." I must admit I always feel a bit weepy when I re-read this part myself. : )
This excerpt doesn't specifically mention the fact that the British commander at Yorktown, General Cornwallis, "called in sick" and sent an officer of lesser rank to the surrender ceremony in his stead. Military protocol prohibited Washington from accepting surrender from a man of lower rank than his so he was thus cheated out of playing the major role in this key historical moment. It wasn't until my recent tour of World War II battlefields, that I learned that this happened to Eisenhower, too, when the Germans unconditionally surrendered to the allies on May 7, 1945 in Reims, France. Representing the German government was General Alfred Yodl (later hanged for war crimes). As he was only the chief of staff for Hitler's successor, Karl Donitz, Eisenhower was obliged to step aside and let General Walter Bedell Smith, his chief of staff, sign for the Allied Expeditionary Force. We visited the room in which this surrender was signed, the walls of which are still covered in the original maps, lists of troop movements and casualties, etc. It was truly thrilling to see where World War II finally came to a close. I don't think any bands were playing at that ceremony, however.
I saw this in the Concord (NH) Insider today. It refers to something that happened nearly a year before the events the old veteran is describing here in my story. AUGUST 30 1824: Amos Parker, editor of Concord’s weekly Statesman, goes to Boston to invite the Marquis de Lafayette to visit Concord during the Revolutionary War hero’s U.S. tour. Lafayette agrees to come after the dedication of the Bunker Hill Memorial the following June. Parker describes Lafayette as “a dignified personage, in his 60s, grown portly,” wearing buff-colored cotton pants, a swans’-down vest, a blue broadcloth coat with gilt buttons, a beaver top hat and plain shoes.
This chapter, in which Clara's stepmother and aunt dress her up as a "lady", was inspired by a reference I found on the Old Sturbridge Village website. This came from the writings of Lucy Larcom about her own unwelcome sartorial transformation from childhood to womanhood in the early nineteenth century: "I was as tall as a woman at thirteen, and my older sisters insisted upon lengthening my dresses, and putting up my mop of hair in a comb. I felt injured and almost outraged because my protestations against this treatment were unheeded; and when the transformation in my visible appearance was effected, I went away by myself and had a good cry...." I must admit that I had similar feelings myself when I had to start wearing a bra when I was 12ish. Furthermore, I was outraged that I had to wear this rather uncomfortable contraption and my older brother didn't! I thought it was grossly unfair.
At the end of last year, somehow A BUSS FROM LAFAYETTE disappeared from Bublish. So did MANY of the "hits" on bits from the story which about which I had written over the previous several years. My total count for all my books suddenly went from 130,000 to 40,000 hits. I re-posted BUSS and started writing. About 40 of my former "Bubbles" were recovered by Bublish (thank you) and sent to me, but none of the rest of 'em got back to me. I am now happy to tell you that my total of hits on this website is now OVER 130,000 (131,000 as of today). If I add back in the 90,000 +/- that I lost, this means you people out there have clicked on and read what I have written about BUSS et al something like 220,000 times! Thanks to all of you for visiting. (It's great to be back.) Woo hoo! Cheers, Dorothea
I have been sorting through my old clothes in an effort to "decrapify" our house. (We used to move every few years, which forced me to do this on a regular basis, but we have been in our antique New Hampshire home for 28+ years now, and things have piled up, to say the least.) Of course, doing this is also a visit to the past, and some things I cannot bring myself to throw away, such as the sundress I wore for "going away" from my wedding and the pink fringed flapper costume I was wearing when I first danced with the guy I ended up marrying. Some things are easier to dispose of, such as a corduroy jacket I have not worn in at least ten years.When I checked the pockets, however, I found a little note written on the back of a coupon from Longhorn restaurant.Clearly this was a plot idea that occurred to me while I was tackling a Flo's Filet, and I grabbed the nearest piece of paper to make sure I remembered it. The note said: "Major Weeks brings fan for Pris (from his wife) and Dickon gives fan to Clara for her birthday." And that's exactly what (eventually) happened in this story. I guess that steak can sometimes be a literary inspiration!
Young Lafayette did not impress Queen Marie Antoinette when he first went to the French court. For one thing, she laughed at his clumsy dancing. However, his relationship with her was one of the reasons the totally inexperienced young Frenchman was given such a high rank in the American army. It is true that Congress and Washington did not particularly want to give Lafayette a role in our Revolution, but were convinced by Deane and Franklin's assertion that this would be a very smart political move!. Here's the rhyming version of this: But just in time a letter came from far across the sea/From Deane himself, and Franklin, who were stationed in "Paree."/"He is both rich and famous, this Marquis de Lafayette./His friends are French aristocrats, and Queen M. Antoinette./So give him a high rank and let him bask in glory's glow,/But keep him safe, for heaven's sake (and never let him know)./A dead marquis won't help us gain much-needed French support,/But this lad's service in our cause will wow King Louis' court!”
We moved to our small New Hampshire town in 1991.At that time, there was still a general store in Contoocook Village, (Of course, the Cracker Barrel, the current iteration of the general store in Hopkinton Village described in this scene, is still going strong today.) Anyway, the one in Contoocook, built on the riverbank right across from the railroad covered bridge (one of the only ones left in the country, I believe) closed its doors soon after our arrival in town. However, in 1991 this antique building definitely gave me the impression that I had stepped back to shop in 19th century (or earlier) NH. I doubt that there were any Simeon's Lead Combs in stock, however!
In many New England towns, it was the village itself that built and owned the first church, which was Congregational. The church building thus functioned as both town offices and church for many years. (It was the town officials who hired the ministers and town funds supported the church.) In the early 19th century New Hampshire passed a law "disestablishing" these First Churches, and passing ownership over to the church congregation. Oddly enough, in our town of Hopkinton, when this happened, the town did grant the church building to the congregation, but retained ownership of the church steeple. Recently the steeple which houses the Paul Revere bell needed repairs, and, since the town owned the steeple, this would require funds from the town. An argument ensued at that point that this would violate the principle of the separation of church and state. An interesting dilemma, don't you think??
Joss's finding the "last" strawberry is actually a kind of quote. When we moved to rural New Hampshire, our next door neighbor, Ingy, who was profoundly deaf, had worked in the forestry department of the state. He supervised the planting of trees by the roadside etc. He told us about one stand of trees, that we often pass by. He said that all day long, working in hot weather, the members of his crew were always looking for one thing: the "last" tree to be planted that day. of course, Ingy was the one who decided which tree that was. In this case, however, Joss has made his own such decision, infuriating his sister.
According to the New England Historical Society, in early New England the village church bell had a number of jobs to do.“The gabriel bell woke the people of the parish, the sermon bell announced it was time for the church services; the pardon bell rang before and after the sermon during prayers for the pardoning of sins; the pudding bell, which undoubtedly was the most popular, told the cook to prepare dinner while the church-goers headed for home; the passing bell tolled three times at a man’s death with a ring for each year of his age." In another place, i learned that the English custom was to ring 3 x 3 (9) for a man, 3 x 2 (6) for a woman, and 3 times for a child. Each time, the bell would then ring once for each year of age. Meanwhile, when it is very quiet I can hear the Revere bell in our village church steeple chime the hour.
So, inspired by HAMILTON THE MUSICAL and by "The Midnight Ride of Paul Revere" by Longfellow, I just finished putting all of Lafayette (AKA "America's Favorite Fighting Frenchman) into rhyming verse. It was great fun to wrestle all the important elements of his help with the American Revolution into couplets. Here's what I wrote about the information in the excerpt: Forbidden by King Louis (and his own wife’s family)/To risk his life and fortune quite so very recklessly/,Gilbert was sent to England so that he would change his mind,/Where he met King George and Clinton and was richly wined and dined. - Liberty-Loving Lafayette © 2019 by Dorothea Jensen
First of all, Joss exaggerates here as far as Lafayette hating the British. It is true, however, that in 1759, when Gilbert Lafayette was only 2, his soldier father was killed by a cannon ball during the French and Indian War (called the Seven Years War in Europe) at the battle of Minden. In that battle one of the English officers commanding the artillery was William Phillips. Fast forward to near Petersburg, Virginia, in 1781. Phillips, after having been captured with Burgoyne's army at Saratoga in 1777, had been recently exchanged for the American officer, General Benjamin Lincoln. Thus, Phillips was free to go back to the fight. He was sent to join Benedict Arnold (fighting on the British side) in Virginia. As mentioned later in this novel, Lafayette was trying to capture and hang Arnold in Virginia, but was unable to do so. Meanwhile, Phillips developed typhoid fever. As Phillips lay dying, guess whose artillery was shooting cannon balls over the house where he was? (One even hit the house, killing a maidservant.) I don't know if Lafayette realized that Phillips was there, but it seems that Phillips knew it was Lafayette in command of the cannon. He was reputed to have said, ""Won't that boy let me die in peace?" Quite a twist of fate!
Yesterday, June 13, marked the anniversary of the day in 1777 that Lafayette arrived in America on his noble quest. Lafayette and fellow military officers and shipmates, however, did not start out quite as gloriously as they doubtlessly envisioned. Here is how historian James Gaines describes what happened soon after they arrived: "After trekking for three days and two nights through pathless forests and burning sands, they arrived in Charleston looking 'like beggars and brigands,' and they were received accordingly". -Gaines, James R. R.. For Liberty and Glory: Washington, Lafayette, and Their Revolutions
I have always loved reading about the unorthodox methods von Steuben used to make George Washington's troops into a trained fighting force. Isn't it amazing how a bit of humor can leaven a daunting, demanding task?
This method of making jam or other preserves by covering a jar with brandy-soaked paper seems a bit chancy to me. However, I did spot a paper-covered jar at Williamsburg that probably looked similar to what Priscilla is talking about here. I've posted a picture of this on pinterest.com/dgjensen116/a-buss-from-lafayette/ and on my website, abussfromlafayette.com. This doesn't seem to be quite as germ-free as modern day canning, but apparently it worked well enough in "Olden Times" that Priscilla doesn't seem to be unduly worried about botulism. Or whatever.
Believe it or not, the practice of discrimination against married women teachers, called the “marriage bar,” persisted to some degree until the Civil Rights Act of 1964. The usual justification for barring married women from teaching was that they were supported by husbands. Because of this they didn't "need" to teach, as opposed to men and/or unmarried women.
Ms. Meis, Queen of Bublish, suggested that we authors write this week about how we use setting in our stories. In my historical fiction, the setting I use is usually not just limited to a place, but is also rooted in time. What is demanding in the kinds of setting I put to use - THE PAST - is particularly challenging for an author. I always think of it as creating a kind of "virtual reality." This makes it possible for my readers to look around the world of the past and see what was different from today and what was the same. These revelations, however, must come out naturally, not like a lecture or a text book. Here, for instance, I do not directly state how different shopping was in the past. Instead I try to structure a conversation so that these differences are revealed more or less matter-of-factly by the characters themselves. 'This is actually pretty tricky to pull off, but kind of fun.
I have always been a bit fuzzy on what a dragoon is, so I finally looked into it. From what I can gather, dragoons were mounted infantry. They carried firearms sometimes called "dragons" because they spewed fire like those mythical beasts. The name DRAGOON obviously comes from the name of this weapon. Wikipedia says that 1) these firearms were originally handgun versions of the blunderbuss and 2) that dragoons often rode their horses into battle, but dismounted in order to fight. I don't know how accurate this is., however. I believe that cavalry, on the other hand, carried sabers, but no guns. And stayed ON their horses - if possible!
This book is the first one I've set in a place near where I live. (I wrote The Riddle of Penncroft Farm , set in Pennsylvania, after I had moved back to Minnesota many years ago. As for my Izzy Elf books, well, I must admit I don't live at the North Pole.)This means there is an occasional "wow" moment for me when I pass by a place where I've set a fictional scene. Today I happened to pass by Brown's Brook en route to the grocery store. I took a look at the brook and got a jolt of excitement. Whoa! Even though I made it all up, I find passing a spot from one of my books makes it all seem real.
I have been reading a terrific book by Thomas Fleming entitled "The Strategy of Victory," in which I have learned many details about the Revolution that I had not encountered before. One interesting bit was in a letter from one of the plotters in the "Conway Cabal," General Mifflin. In this missive, Mifflin refers to Washington and his top generals as—you guessed it—a CABAL. Of course, I knew that Conway, Gates, et al were bona fide plotters hoping to put Gates in command of all Patriot forces. For them to refer to the legitimate commander-in-chief with this term, however, clearly shows how Washington was being undermined by some of his own officers. Here's the quote from Mifflin's letter: "The list of our disgusted patriots is long and formidable—their resentments keen against the reigning cabal..." Fleming goes on to explain thus: "An explorer of this thicket of words will soon see that the men being trashed were General Washington and his two closest advisors, Generals Nathanael Greene and Henry Knox." - Thomas Fleming, The Strategy of Victory
I once had a huge argument with a guide at Valley Forge about whether the Continentals went hungry the winter of 1777-8. He more or less spouted info like this bit from the New England HIstorical Society article, "Seven Fun Continental Army Facts."Every day they were also supposed to receive a pound of bread, a pound of beef and/or pork, a pint of milk, a gill of peas or beans and six ounces of butter. One day a week they had salt fish instead of meat and a pint of vinegar to ward off scurvy." I believe that the misguided guide never read about how the reality of food supplies seldom matched the official ration, as discussed in the NEHS article: "That, at least, was what they got in theory. In practice, the food had often turned rancid. Soldiers frequently went without bread or meat. Even more frequently, they lacked vinegar and vegetables." Apparently some of the problem developed when unscrupulous wagoners drained off the brine which preserved meat in order to lighten their load. Needless to say, this meant the meat went bad.
After arguing with General Gates during the Battle of Saratoga, Arnold lost his command and was sent to his tent like a naughty child. He sulked there, Achilles-like, until it became apparent Gates was losing the fight. At that point, he rushed from his tent shouting for random men to join him, rushed into the fight and turned the tide of the battle. His leg was badly injured at Saratoga, and there is a monument to his leg where he fell on the battlefield. Once he turned traitor, of course, no one wanted to honor the rest of him!
I have always found it fascinating to read about the British occupation of Philadelphia during the winter of 1777-8. Apparently it was traditional for armies at that time to take a recess from battling during the winter months. And what a recess the Redcoats had that winter! Many wealthy loyalist families stayed in town and entertained British officers. One such family, the Shippens, had a pretty blonde daughter, Peggy, who later captivated and married none other than Benedict Arnold. When he turned traitor, no one knew at the time that she had not only influenced his decision to do so, but provided the conduit for him to negotiate with the British. This was done through John Andre, the charming young British officer who was hanged as a spy when caught out of uniform after meeting with Arnold at West Point which was under his command. It was there that "the best general in the Continental Army." explained how the British could easily capture that key fort overlooking the Hudson.
Here's my bit of description about why the British went south and Lafayette's assignment, which he himself described thus: “As a result of his treason and desertion, I was to deliver justice swiftly and without delay!” So here's my rhyming versions: Then when the British headed South, which they deemed “loyalist”/(And thought mistakenly that Southerners were “royalist”)/ The traitor Arnold joined them there, ransacking as he went./ To capture him and hang him high, young Lafayette was sent.
HAMILTON lovers will know that Lafayette went back to France in the middle of the war, as told in the song "Guns and Ships:. Here's how Lin Manuel tells it: [LAFAYETTE] I go to France for more funds [COMPANY] Lafayette! [LAFAYETTE] I come back with more Guns And ships And so the balance shifts. HERE'S HOW I WROTE ABOUT THIS IN RHYME: This episode, however, showed we needed something more/To fix up the alliance to ensure we'd win the war/.So Lafayette sailed back to France and hounded King and court/To send more soldiers and more ships to beef up French support/.And in the end, France doubled down against the British foe:/It sent more troops and ships and guns, and also Rochambeau.
Someone questioned whether baseball was played in the early 19th century. The answer? Yes, it was. (The whole Abner Doubleday story is apparently a myth.) A version of baseball, sometimes called "The Boston Game" at that time, was certainly played. There is also a possibility that baseball was played in the spring of 1778 at Valley Forge, although this is a bit murky. (The soldier's journal from which this reference came simply said "played at base", which could have meant another game, Prisoners' Base.
I have read numerous accounts of Lafayette remembering many veterans who had served under him BY NAME! (This would be nearly fifty years after the Revolution!) At first, I figured that there must have been some PR guy standing nearby at these events feeding him names, but apparently that was NOT the case. It seems that Lafayette was one of those lucky people who can recall names, even years after meeting someone. (I can't remember a name even MINUTES after meeting someone, so this is a skill I have always hugely envied.)
In England, 19th century workmen (drovers, drivers, farmers etc.) protected clothing by wearing smocks. In one of the Old Sturbridge publications, I found a smock pictured, so apparently these protective "smock-frocks" were also used in New England at that time. (OSV is a living history museum in Massachusetts set in the 1830s.) Since many people had only one "everyday" outfit to work in and a Sunday outfit for going to church, it made sense to wear smocks to keep the workday clothes as clean as possible. My kids remember wearing old shirts of their father backwards to protect their clothes in nursery school and/or Kindergarten when painting pictures. (One of my sons even named his film production company Smock Media, observing that "Smock Protects the Artist." I have posted pictures of smocks on my website and on Pinterest.
Recently I met a representative of the Children of the Revolution, an organization that is raising money to put up a new, corrected, marker about Lafayette's stop in my town, Hopkinton, NH. (This is where A BUSS FROM LAFAYETTE is set, and his reception here is part of the story.) I only met her because she stopped by my house to pick up Julien Icher, the young Frenchman who is researching Lafayette's Farewell Tour. Anyway, I begn to explain to her why I was eager to help in any way I could with the new sign, and started telling her about BUSS. To my surprise, she said, "My daughter just finished reading that book and she loved it!" I turned around, and greeted her young daughter. I don't know which of us was more surprised, but I was delighted to meet this young fan!
I was able to read these newspaper accounts myself, in both microfiche and paper versions, at the New Hampshire Historical Society. Such a thrill to get my hands (literally) on these stories from the past. One note: this particular newspaper article might have exaggerated the number of people at the ceremony. There are as many estimate variations as there are historians, but most say there were 50,000 - 100,000 people there.
While watching the Patriots' Victory Parade today (I was born and live in New England, after all), I kept looking at the crowd gathered there and had a "deja vu" moment. Then I realized what I was recalling was the picture of Lafayette arriving in Philadelphia on his Farewell Tour. Check out this striking likeness on my blog: dorotheajensen.blogspot.com.
There is a lot of talk this week about cold, and it all makes me think of the soldiers who had to endure the winter encampment at Valley Forge. I'm not sure anyone actually froze to death, or starved, but plenty went hungry and were inadequately clothed for the bitter cold. Some even lacked shoes. So count your blessings as you pull on your boots and mittens, people! By the way, I made a short video of this bit of Buss - in 95 degree heat, actually, at Valley Forge. You'll find it posted on the "Pix and Videos" page of www.abussfromlafayette.com. (There should be a link to this website somewhere close by,)
OK. I admit it. I spent plenty of time as a wallflower at high school dances. My mother insisted I go to these events, but I went most grudgingly. After awhile, I started hanging out with the policeman stationed out in the hallway for "security", Officer Munk. Looking back, I wonder what he thought about having a 13-year-old girl chatting with him for hours during school dances, but I am most grateful he did so!
I just finished reading PRAIRIE FIRES: THE AMERICAN DREAMS OF LAURA INGALLS WILDER, by Caroline Fraser. I have read several biographies of Wilder, and I think this is the best, most even-handed account of her life. But that is not what I am writing about here. It is simply where I learned that soon after their 1885 wedding, Almanzo bought a side-saddle for Laura and taught her how to ride on it. Here's what the book says: Always confident with horses, he told her, "Don’t let me hear any more about your father not letting you learn to ride".. . Almanzo showed her how to ride side-saddle, setting her to learn on plowed ground, a soft landing if she fell" -Fraser, Caroline. Prairie Fires What I find most interesting about this is that Almanzo thought Laura didn't know how to ride, but we know from Laura's books that she and her cousin Lena rode ponies (probably bareback) at a run across the prairie. The fact that she didn't tell Almanzo about this might just indicate that riding astride was still "improper" for girls sixty years after Clara was told this!
Kathy Meis, the Queen of Bublish, requested that we all create bubbles explaining why we write. Here is a short explanation of the the reasons I write historical fiction. First of all, I do this because I LOVED reading this kind of story myself as a young girl. Of course, I read all the Laura Ingalls Wilder books. (I finished the last one in 3rd grade, and my teacher told my mother that I cried all day when I did this because there were no more to read.) I read Johnny Tremain, and The Witch of Blackbird Pond, The Sherwood Ring, and many many other stories that let me experience history in a much more engaging manner than, say, a textbook. Years later, I realized I wanted to write stories that would do the same thing for readers, young and old!
The Perkins Tavern where the dance is held (and Clara dances with Dickon) was a real place. There were several iterations of the Perkins Inn/Tavern over the years. (The sign board bears the date 1796.) In 1825, it was run by Captain Brinsley Perkins - a most colorful character who shows up later in this story. I have posted a picture of the actual sign board for the Perkins Inn on Pinterest (https://www.pinterest.com/dgjensen116/a-buss-from-lafayette/) and on my website, abussfromlafayette.com
By the time that ships from France arrived to lend us their support/Their admiral, D'estaing, was sent to help attack Newport/ But egos came in conflict when the battle was begun/And the French fleet sailed away before a victory was won/The Marquis was recruited then to act as go between/To help sooth ruffled feathers, and make everything serene.
When I was a child, many, many years ago, my family would occasionally make taffy. It was great fun. Of course, doing this was also inspired by my reading about making taffy in Laura Ingalls Wilder's books. Check this out on my blog, which also includes a link to a recipe for taffy-making: https://dorotheajensen.blogspot.com/2018/03/non-electronic-but-sticky-fun-for-kids.html
I stumbled across this amazing animated map showing British and American troop movements at the Battle of Brandywine: westernheritagemapping.org/ /RevWar/Brandywine/ BrandywineMotionV402.html
IT IS A BIT TRICKY TO LOCATE THE PLACE WHERE LAFAYETTE ATTACKED IN GLOUCESTER. I FOUND THE FOLLOWING ARTICLE PINPOINTING WHERE IT WAS: "Thousands of drivers pass by the Kings Highway spot where Haddon Heights, Audubon and Mount Ephraim converge at Haddon Lake Park, oblivious to the Revolutionary War battle that occurred there. That history involves a victory by one of the most famous generals of the war, the Marquis de Lafayette, during a battle overlooked by most history textbooks: the Battle of Gloucester, which was fought across six towns from Gloucester City and Bellmawr to Haddonfield in what is now known as Camden County. There are park and town signs but no historical markers today at the two Haddon Lake Park entrances on both sides of Kings Highway. It was there and in an area extending a few hundred yards to the east that the Frenchman Lafayette scored a skirmish victory on Nov. 25, 1777, in the midst of the two day Battle of Gloucester that led to his full commission in the Continental Army under Gen. George Washington. - CAROL COMEGRO, CHERRY HILL COURIER-POST, PUBLISHED 7/15/18
Inspired by HAMILTON, I've been fooling around with writing Lafayette's story in verse. Here's the bit about Gloucester, etc. "The Boy's" courageous actions, it was very clearly seen/ Earned honor and respect from "Fighting Quaker" General Greene./ Greene put him in command to watch Cornwallis' armed forces / To see how many men there were, and armaments, and horses. Near Gloucester, in the Jerseys, lurked a Hessian company/ Outnumbered, the Marquis attacked, and won a victory./ Greene said he "searched for danger", when the facts of this were known./ And Lafayette was given a division of his own.
Ok. I admit it. I very seldom use metaphors or similes in my writing. Ot at least I don't on purpose. I could not resist using the hot taffy simile here, however. Then it occurred to me that most modern kids have never pulled hot taffy, so I posted a link to a recipe and directions via my blog: https://dorotheajensen.blogspot.com/2018/03/non-electronic-but-sticky-fun-for-kids.html (I did the taffy thing once or twice as a child, probably because of the Laura Ingalls Wilder books.)
I was interested to learn that shampoo as we know it is quite a recent invention. Up until the 1920s, (nearly a century after A Buss From Lafayette takes place) bar soap was still used for washing the hair. Here's what was recommended in 1908: The New York Times outlines “simple rules” on “How to Shampoo the Hair.” It claims that hair is best shampooed at night, following thorough combing and brushing, and singeing split ends. Castile soap is applied with a stiff brush, rinsed four times. Hair specialists, “Recommend shampooing every month to six weeks if the hair is in fairly good condition.” Hairstory.com
When I visited Old Sturbridge Village more than twenty years ago, I was struck by the fact that the village storekeeper was in essence the bookkeeper for the whole town. Many transactions were three-or-more-sided, with customers buying services from other customers via the store's accounts. I clearly remember seeing a most complicated ledger book reflecting this complexity. Oddly enough, on my more recent visits to OSV, no one seemed to remember this ledger. They were able, however, to find xeroxes of some of its pages. You will find more information and see pictures of these pages on my blog: https://dorotheajensen.blogspot.com/ (Put "Complicated Figuring" in the search box.)
Of course, as I've mentioned in various places on the internet, it was just such a little girl who inspired me to write this book. She was the great-grandmother of an elderly woman I met in 1997 who presented Lafayette with a posie in 1824 in Northampton, Massachusetts. In return, he gave her a buss—a kiss—on the cheek. As an old lady, that little girl made a point of passing Lafayette's kiss along to her granddaughter—the mother of my new friend—who passed it to her daughter, who actually passed it along to ME! So that means I've been kissed by someone who was kissed by someone who was kissed by someone who was kissed by Lafayette. (I think I've got that right.) I figure that since thousands of little girls (and bigger ones) were bussed by Lafayette on his Farewell Tour, there must be many, many people today who have received kisses at many removes from the Great Man Himself!
According to an Old Sturbridge Village publication on 19th century general stores, Simeon's combs really were available in all these materials.I believe that only the lead one was supposed to turn red hair into "a beautiful black." Or so it was claimed. Lead was probably the only one that blackened with oxidation, so perhaps people thought it would somehow coat red hair. Sounds pretty yucky to me. Now for a true confession: the manufacture of Simeon's lead combs stopped a few years before my story takes place, but I'm figuring that Mr. Towne still had some on the shelf. (For pictures of what a store of this era looked like, take a look at the pix and videos page of my website, abussfromlafayette.com..)
On February 25, 1825, Lafayette granted "Poulson's Advertiser," one of Philadelphia's leading newspapers, an interview. In the piece, Lafayette recalled receiving his wound at Brandywine: I ordered my horse to the rear. The news of my being hurt was conveyed to the commander-in-chief, with the usual exaggerations in such cases. The good General Washington freely expressed his grief that one so young, and a volunteer in the holy cause of freedom, should so early have fallen; but he was soon relieved by an assurance that my wound would stop short of life, when he sent me his love an gratulation that matters were no worse.. .I was carried into a house in Chester and laid on a table, when my wound received its first dressing. The general officers soon arrived, when I saluted them by begging that they would not eat me up, as they appeared to be very hungry, and I was the only dish upon the table in the house.
I based this "Bone for America" story on that related by Captain John Polhemus in his 1818 application for a military pension: "Our Colonel had his horse killed, and General Marquis de Lafayette received a wound in his leg from the same ball, whereupon, while stroking the smarting wound, he exclaimed, 'Bone, bone for America!' I asked him what the bone had to do with it, to which he replied 'Good, good for American liberty!' and we both enjoyed the joke," As far as I know, there is no other verification of this, and Pohlemus might have been embellishing his war experience. However, I figured that the men at Towne's store might also embellish what they knew of the Revolution. : )
Since my story takes place in New Hampshire, where I live, I was delighted to learn that New Hampshire troops took part in the Battle of Brandywine on September 11, 1777. New Hampshireman Major General Sullivan, believed early reports that the British were NOT coming up on the other side of Brandywine Creek for a surprise attack from behind the American troops. But they were, and the troops which the "lobsterbacks" attacked were Sullivan's own men. It was these men whom Lafayette rushed into his first ever battle to rally. (Of course, New Hampshire was not called The Granite State until Lafayette came back fifty years later on his Farewell Tour. A song composed in his honor was the first time it was called The Granite State.
The united French militia commanded by Lafayette during the French Revolution were known as the "National Guard". Because of this, some American milita were re-named "National Guard" in honor of Lafayette when he visited America in 1824-5. Eventually, all the states used this term for their militias.
This true incident is another instance of Lafayette's self-deprecating sense of humor. I HAD to include it in my story. Despite having been welcomed like a rock star for nearly a year all over America, this word-famous man could still laugh at himself in a most charming manner! No wonder people loved him.
I have no idea what the real Mr. Towne actually looked like. I just made him balding and fashionably coiffed (more or less) in order to refer back to this for a contrast later in the story. Sorry, Storekeeper Towne (and any of his descendants now living in Hopkinton).
Why is this cockade (a leather "flower" identifying political allegiance) two colors? Well, apparently a black cockade was used early in the Revolution as a way of demonstrating allegiance to the Patriot side. As most of the American soldiers did not have uniforms, at least until later in the war, this black cockade was sometimes the only way to identify which side a soldier was on. (Strangely enough, black was the color denoting the Hanoverian monarchy, but even if the British soldiers might have worn clack cockades in battle, it was clear that they were British because of their real uniforms.) The French army used white cockades on their hats, and after the French became allies, many American soldiers honored this alliance by adding a white layer to their black cockades. Hence the bi-color cockade!
"The defining garment of girlhood for the second quarter of the 19th century was a pair of pantalettes. . .Little girls' dresses were very similar to their mothers' in cut, but they were shorter, allowing the pantalettes, either of a matching fabric or of embroidered white cotton or linen, to show. As a girl got older, her skirts became gradually longer. By the age of 13 or so, she left off wearing pantalettes altogether." Lynne Bassett, "The Great Leap: Youth's Clothing in the Early Nineteenth Century, Old Sturbridge Village. (So it appears that Clara is still wearing pantalettes after most girls her age would have stopped. When a girl stopped wearing pantalettes, her skirts would be long enough to cover her legs.)
My description of Towne's Store is based on several things: visiting Old Sturbridge Village, reading their publications, and my own experience growing up in a small town. I had no trouble imagining how a store such as Towne's would have seemed a link to the world, as it does here to Clara. To glimpse a 19th century general store interior, check out the Pictures and Videos page of abussfromlafayette.com!
Like Clara, I always loved school and even enjoyed schoolroom sounds like chalk scritching on a blackboard. The special pencils used on slate tablets sounded very similar to this. (I know this because I bought a slate tablet and slate pencil at Colonial Williamsburg.) In a time when paper was relatively expensive, students did much of their classwork on their individual slate tablets.
The story of the veteran stranded in Boston is based on Amos Parker's often humorous published account of Lafayette's visit to New Hampshire. Here's what he wrote about the vet: ". . .a revolutionary soldier from Vermont, having attended the Bunker Hill celebration, and having accidentally been left by the stage, begged for a ride as far as Concord on his way home. As I had ample accommodations, he was cheerfully taken on board with me in the barouche" - Amos Andrew Parker, Recollections of General Lafayette on his Visit to the United States in 1824-5. Parker then goes on to describe how the cheering throngs thought this veteran to be Lafayette and how he himself was obliged to make a speech to explain the situation at every crossroads where people were gathered, eager for a glimpse of the famous general. When I read this, I figured that Hopkinton was handily located between Concord and Vermont, so I imagined the veteran stopping at Towne's Store and telling all about how he was "mistook" for Lafayette.
One tiny example of how historical fiction can be spun around actual historical fact. Here's the fact: "Elder Putney was particularly hospitable to his guests, always furnishing them with plenty of cider for nothing. His supply of winter apples was just as free." - Charles Lord, Life and Times in Hopkinton Yep, old Elder Putney did give away apples and cider to his guests. I figured he would also give 'em to the kids in the neighborhood once in awhile. (Innkeeper Putney was a veteran of the Revolution, and fought at Bunker Hill.)
I had trouble deciding what Clara's guess about the old veteran's mistake identity should be. Clement Moore's poem, "A Visit from Santa Nicholas" (sometimes called " 'Twas the night before Christmas") was actually published in 1823, two years before the time of my story. This verse, with its Dutch Sinter Klaas inspiration, eventually had a huge impact on the American concept of Santa. I figured, however, that it might not have been widely known in 1825. Therefore, I just called the jolly old elf "Old Father Christmas" based on an earlier English tradition. (I did this despite the fact that I am so fond of Moore's poem that I model all my Izzy Elf stories on it, anapestic tetrameter and all.) By the way, I learned that Old Sturbridge Village, the living history museum set in the early nineteenth century, uses the name Father Christmas. See my post about this entitled "I Do So Enjoy Being Right (Once in Awhile)" at dorotheajensen.blogspot.com.
One of the things I found interesting in reading about these stores via Old Sturbridge Village publications was the extent to which customers "traded" - paying with various homemade products to credit against purchases. Also, the credit for such trades could be applied to other customers from whom someone purchased a product or service. This made for very complicated three-way transactions that had to be kept track of by the storekeeper.
When we lived in Brazil many years ago, brown sugar only came in hard blocks, so we had to hammer off what we wanted to use. Therefore, when I read a 19th century cookbook recipe for preserves that recommended using sugar syrup from the West Indies instead of pounding sugar from hard sugar cones, I totally understood what this meant. I have posted pix of sugar cones on the pix and videos page of my abussfromlafayette.com website.
"The Boy's" courageous actions, it was very clearly seen/Earned honor and respect from "Fighting Quaker" General Greene/ Who put him in command to watch Cornwallis' armed forces/To see how many men there were, and armaments, and horses. / Near Gloucester, in the Jerseys, lurked a Hessian company / Outnumbered, the Marquis attacked, and won a victory./ Greene said he "searched for danger", when the facts of this were known./And Lafayette was given a division of his own.
Apparently there is no marker at the site where Lafayette led his important first command. I found an article online that described exactly where it is. (For details, see my blog post: http://dorotheajensen.blogspot.com/2018/08/lafayettes-first-command-gloucester-2.html.
Benjamin Thompson, later known as Count Rumford, was an inventor born in Massachusetts who lived in Concord, NH, at one time. He created a number of advances in heating and cooking devices. His shallow, angle-sided fireplace design was much more efficient at heating a room than previous designs, (It is still in use today.) His Rumford range, or stew stove, allowed women to cook standing up. A Loyalist, he left America for England during the Revolution. He ended up a Count of the Holy Roman Empire. At that time, he chose to use Rumford in his title, because Rumford was an earlier name for Concord, NH. I have posted a picture of a Rumford range on my Buss board on Pinterest.com/dgjensen116.
When I was a little girl, we visited Blackberry Hill Farm in North Grafton MA, where my father, his brothers, and my grandfather and his siblings were all born and grew up,.I remember looking around in the barn and finding a very strange-looking saddle, which I then learned was a sidesaddle. I recently asked my 96-year-old uncle about this. He said two of his aunts, (one of whom I remembered meeting) born in the late 1800s, had to ride on that sidesaddle as young ladies. At the time, I was always nervous enough when riding astride on horseback on a normal saddle and remember being glad I didn't have to ride "aside!" (I have posted a picture of a sidesaddle on abussfromlafayette.com on the pix and videos page.)
I found this real person in Charles Lord's history, LIFE AND TIMES IN HOPKINTON NH.and decided to put him into my story. Here is how Lord described him: "An itinerant doctor of repute in the town was Dr. Samuel Flagg, who carried a stock of medicines and travelled on foot. He seemed to have been esteemed by many adults, but greatly feared by the children, who regarded him as a monster having mysterious and dreadful uses for children, especially if they had red hair." He was apparently an alcoholic who ended up dying when he passed out in a bog in town.
I think Joss's statement here was inspired by a production I was in of "110 in the Shade", many, MANY years ago. In that musical, the spinster heroine, Lizzie Curry, is told by her older brother, ' Well, you don't talk to a man the way you oughta! You talk too serious!" In that production, I played Snookie Updegraff, the girlfriend of Lizzie's younger brother, Jimmy. Apparently, my character knew how to talk to boys. I had to say (with a straight but simpering face) lines like "Hello, honeybabysugardarlin."
The relationship between Clara and her cousin Henrietta just might turn out to be a bit more complicated than indicated by this early description. At this point Hetty sounds straight out of "Mean Girls", doesn't she?
Lafayette was only 19 when he joined Washington's forces as a major general. Fifty years after the Revolution began, he was the only major general left alive. Because of his fame, and because he was a "living link" to a major event in American history, he attracted enormous crowds everywhere he went, especially at ceremonies such as the dedication of the Bunker Hill monument. There is wide variation in estimates of how many people were at this event, but there were upwards of 50,000. I have posted a picture of his rock star reception in Philadelphia on abussfrom lafayette.com (on the pictures and videos page). It was a huge mob!
When I was a child, the nursery rhyme about Lucy Locket losng her pocket baffled me. How could someone lose a pocket?? Later I learned that pockets in the 18th century were totally separate from clothing. They were basically flat bags that could be tied around the waist underneath a skirt. Said skirt would have an opening at the side seam so that the wearer could reach through to get t9 the pocket. Lucy probably lost her pocket because the strings came untied or broke. I have posted a picture of just such a detachable pocket on my website, abussfromlafayette.com (on the pictures and videos page), and on dorotheajensen.blogspot.com (put pocket in the search box to find it). I once played Lucy Lockit (not exactly the same, but close) in THE BEGGR'S OPERA. I did not lose any pockets but I did lose the hero to the soprano. As usual.
One of the things that engaged my interest in Lafayette from the beginning was his reputed charm and his often self-deprecating sense of humor. As I read more and more about him, I found many instances illustrating these appealing qualities, several of which I detail later in this story. This was not some stuffy, self-important aristocrat!
I just posted a VERY short video (only 15 seconds or so) introducing this story on my website, abussfromlafayette.com. (I think there is a direct link to it near where you are reading this.) I hope you like it!
On Labor Day weekend, I had the pleasure of participating in a commemoration of Lafayette's visit to Charlton, Massachusetts in September, 1824. I wore an 1820s costume and made a speech describing how the general was received on this Farewell Tour. The Big Finish was the arrival of Lafayette himself, as portrayed by professional actor, Ben Goldman. The best moment of all (for me) was when I received a BUSS FROM LAFAYETTE. For a photo of this delightful experience, visit my blog: dorotheajensen.blogspot.com
"The Boy's" courageous actions, it was very clearly seen/Earned honor and respect from "Fighting Quaker" General Greene/ Who put him in command to watch Cornwallis' armed forces/To see how many men there were, and armaments, and horses./ Near Gloucester, in the Jerseys, lurked a Hessian company / Outnumbered, the Marquis attacked, and won a victory./ Greene said he "searched for danger", when the facts of this were known./And Lafayette was given a division of his own.
Apparently there is no marker at the site where Lafayette led his important first command. I found an article online that described exactly where it is. (For details, see my blog post: http://dorotheajensen.blogspot.com/2018/08/lafayettes-first-command-gloucester-2.html. I call this Gloucester #2, because the first Gloucester that transformed Lafayette's life was the Duke of Gloucester, younger brother of King George III. He disagreed with the king's belligerent stance toward the American colonies. It was this duke who first told Lafayette about America's struggle for independence. This is what inspired him to join our cause. (I call this Gloucester #1: Inspiration.)
Lafayette actually had to sneak out of France under the threat of arrest to come to America. His powerful father-in-law, the Duc d'Ayen, was not pleased, especially since the Duc's own brother was the French ambassador to England at the time. Having his son-in-law hare off to aid the Americans against the British, after rust rjeceiving (literally) a royal welcome in England, must have been a huge embarrassment for him.
When Lafayette came to tour America 50 years after the beginning of the Revolution (at the invitation of President Monroe) he literally was the "nation's guest." All of his travel expenses were paid for by the towns and cities he visited, and all the "turnpikes" were opened for him gratis! He went to all 24 states and mobbed like a rock star by grateful Americans everywhere he went.This must have been most gratifying for a man who lost most of his money and spent five years in prison during the French Revolution!
I was able to read and print out the actual newspaper articles published in Concord, NH, that covered Lafayette's visits to Massachusetts and New Hampshire in June, 1825. They were on microfiche at the New Hampshire Historical Society. (I read the original paper versions on a later visit: it felt like true "time travel", only not as scary as in H. G. Wells' THE TIME MACHINE!)
SALMAGUNDI is a word that tickled my fancy from the first time I heard of it. It apparently comes from a French word that means a mixture of widely different things, or a hodgepodge. Frankly, I'm surprised that Priscilla doesn't mention this when later she explains the difference between salmagundi and Solomon Gundy. (BTW, we made salmagundi for the celebration of the launch of A BUSS FROM LAFAYETTE and it was a big hit! I doubt that Salomon Gundy would have been quite so well received.)
In an early draft of BUSS, Joss compared having his hand whipped by a rawhide (leather strap) and by a ferule (a 2 foot long willow switch) in school, both of which he had experienced. Both sound painful, and both were accepted practice in 19th century schools. (Ouch!) By the way, Priscilla's experience is based on my daughter's one "misdemeanor" in elementary school.She was sent to the Dread Behavior Room, then announced "I'm never going to school again!" when she came home. Of course, she didn't have to suffer the painful consequences that Priscilla did for the same offense!
In the early nineteenth century, children's birthdays were NOT celebrated with parties or presents, generally speaking. According to James and Dorothy Volo, in the book FAMILY LIFE IN 19TH CENTURY AMERICA, it wasn't until the 1830s that parties and gift-giving became more common. That would have been a number of years after Clara's birthday in 1825. Nevertheless, I felt compelled to let her stepmother and father give her a present or two. Maybe they were just ahead of their time!
I decided to dress Priscilla in a "betsy" to give Clara a chance to talk about their relationship. I have posted a picture of a betsy on this book's website, www.abussfromlafayette.com, so you can see what this ruffled collar might look like. (I am having a new 1825 costume made which has a betsy, and will post a picture of that later, too!)
Early on in my research for this story, I read an Old Sturbridge Village booklet about 19th century general stores. There I found a reference to Simeon's Lead Combs, sold at the time, purporting to turn red hair black. Ah hah! I thought, realizing that I had found another major (ahem) STRAND for Clara's story. Later I realized that Simeon's Lead Comb presented an excellent opportunity for parents and teachers to talk about how modern products promising to improve personal appearance are often less effective than advertised.
A few years ago I was doing some genealogy and found that one of my ancestors, in the early 19th century, married a woman who bore him several children but died a few years later. The widower then married his wife's sister. At the time, I wondered how the children felt about that. It seemed to me that it would be confusing, to say the least, to have an aunt turn into a stepmother. I created Clara and Priscilla to explore that situation. I think I found this interesting because through my Gilbert and Sullivan experience I knew that marrying a deceased wife's sister became illegal in the UK soon after this. It was considered incest! The issue was raised so often in parliament that in the Gilbert and Sullivan opera Iolanthe the Queen of the Fairies sings, “He shall prick that annual blister, Marriage with deceased wife’s sister”.
A few weeks ago, a technical SNAFU caused all the bubbles (and nearly 70,000 hits!) posted for this book over the past two years to disappear. Bublish is working to restore them, but meanwhile, I have put A BUSS FROM LAFAYETTE back in place and will be creating new bubbles going forward. First of all, in this excerpt, Clara mentions the hot weather. There actually was a heat wave in New England in late June, 1825, during Lafayette's visit. This was quite unusual for this part of the country (still is). I'm sure this made it less than comfortable for the Revolutionary War veterans who sported their fifty-year-old woolen uniforms for the occasion!
"This teacher's guide gives many wonderful suggestions of how to integrate subjects with the historical content of this novel. . .[and] suggests questions that challenge higher level thinking."—Susan Elliott, Ph.D., Associate Professor, Quinnipiac University; Literacy and Curriculum Development This guide is for Dorothea Jensen's award-winning (Literary Classics, Purple Dragonfly, eLit Awards, etc.) historical novel for young readers, A Buss from Lafayette. It contains bulletin board ideas, vocabulary exercises, varied student handouts, puzzles, games, reading comprehension quizzes, discussion questions, and both individual and class projects. Its cross-curricular activities include language arts/reading, social studies, mathematics, health/safety, art, music, dance, drama, recipes, and suggestions for real and virtual field trips. A full answer key is provided. The main topics covered are the American Revolution, Lafayette's role in our War of Independence, Lafayette's Farewell Tour of America in 1824-5, and everyday life and customs in rural America in the 1820s.
I recently traveled through Hesse in Germany, where the tour director said that this was where the German troops came from who fought for the British during the American Revolution. He described them as "mercenaries." This was not accurate. First, although referred to as Hessians by Americans, many of the German troops came from other German states, such as Brunswick. Secondly, these troops were not actually mercenaries (individual soldiers who are paid to fight for a cause or country that is not their own). These troops fought for their own princes, who ordered them to fight as "auxiliary" troops for Great Britain. In essence, George III rented them from German princes (some of whom were his relatives). Of the 30,000 German troops rented by Great Britain, 3,000-5,000 chose to stay in America after the war.
At a book signing several weeks ago, I met a young woman who homeschools her two daughters. When I told her about Bublish and the kind of background information it is possible for authors to write about via this website, she immediately got it. "It's just like X-ray on Prime Video," she observed. This struck me as a singularly apt comparison. Like Prime Video's X-Ray, Bublish makes it possible for viewers/readers to learn a great deal about the "cast", the characters, the costuming,' trivia' and other background information about a story. The more I thought about what this woman (who also had the perspicuity to buy copies of both A BUSS FROM LAFAYETTE and THE RIDDLE OF PENNCROFT FARM) said, the more I realized that this is exactly the kind of information authors are able to post and readers are able to access on the Bublish website. Kudos to this clever young mom for figuring it all out in a nanosecond!
One thing I enjoyed doing when writing A BUSS FROM LAFAYETTE was finding and writing about interesting real people who lived in Clara's town at the time the story is set, 1825. Dr. Flagg was one of these. He apparently was a good doctor, but had a serious problem with alcohol. It seems he actually did harbor an aversion to red-headed children, for some reason. Obviously this was another reason I put him into my story, as the main character is red-headed Clara. I thought some interesting "reverberations" could develop from this. This multiple choice question is from the reading comprehension exercise for this part of the book.
As a young reader, I loved nothing more than historical fiction. Luckily for me, some GREAT h.f. books came out when I was exactly the right age to read them. THE WITCH OF BLACKBIRD POND, THE SHERWOOD RING, CALICO CAPTIVE, etc. all appeared when I was in 8th grade or soon thereafter. I am certain that these books engendered the passion for history that impels me to write this kind of story myself. There is no question that embedding a compelling fictional plot within accurate events of the past (although tricky to do) actually does bring the past to life for young readers. To this day, when I visit the setting of a h.f. book I love, I get a thrill finding spots mentioned in the stories I read 60+ years ago. Last year I went to Quebec City for the first time. I spent much of my time there dragging my husband around to find places where the fictional Miriam Willard lived or worked when a captive there during the French and Indian Wars. It suddenly struck me that readers of A BUSS FROM LAFAYETTE might someday do the same kind of search in Hopkinton, my very own New Hampshire town, where this story is set.
No matter what motivations drew Lafayette to help America, his actual arrival on our shores had to have been a bit of a let down for him. Yesterday, June 13, marked the anniversary of the day in 1777 that Lafayette arrived in America on his noble quest. Lafayette and fellow military officers and shipmates, however, did not start out quite as gloriously as they doubtlessly envisioned. Here is how historian James Gaines describes what happened soon after they arrived: "After trekking for three days and two nights through pathless forests and burning sands, they arrived in Charleston looking 'like beggars and brigands,' and they were received accordingly". -Gaines, James R. R.. For Liberty and Glory: Washington, Lafayette, and Their Revolutions
This activity from the Teacher's Guide points to some of the most important reasons I wrote A BUSS FROM LAFAYETTE. These are: 1) to bring historical events alive for young (or old) readers, and 2) to help them connect with fictional or real characters from another time. As I know from my own girlhood reading (in closets, mostly), accurate historical fiction (and I strive to make mine as accurate as possible) is an EXCELLENT portal to the past.
I must admit I love skewering "spoiled brats" : ) in my story. Hetty, of course, is quite selfish, and a quintessential S.B., or at least we think she is. As I once sang in a duet in HMS Pinafore, however, "Things are seldom what they seem. . ." In any case, it was fun combining a historical fact (that Lafayette started refusing to kiss the hands of ladies wearing gloves bearing the image of his face) with things my characters experience during the course of the story.
Students might think that the French Alliance magically made victory a sure thing for the Americans. Not. Here is a chance to talk about one of the major contributions by Lafayette which made it possible for us to win the struggle for independence. (Of course, all of his contributions are clearly conveyed in A BUSS FROM LAFAYETTE.)
A great deal of 18th and 19th century history is embedded in A BUSS FROM LAFAYETTE. I wrote the book in such a way that, along with the main character, Clara, readers learn about what Lafayette did for American during the Revolutionary War, the war itself, and what life was like in the early years of our republic. Many questions in the TEACHER's GUIDE spotlight the historical background of the story and can be a springboard for learning more about our history. (I have also posted music from that era to listen to on my website,) abussfromlafayette.com.
This is one of many, many suggested student exercises in this Teacher's Guide. Puns played a big role in my family when I was growing up, and so all my writing is "infested" with 'em.This exercise is designed to encourage young readers to play with words.
As some of you know from my websites et al, for some mysterious reason my book, A BUSS FROM LAFAYETTE, its Bubbles (I don't know how many but probably well over 100) and its nearly 70,000 hits (thank you, readers) disappeared from my Bublish account. I thought All Hope Was Lost, but apparently the book and its Bubbles have been found in some remote "development" location. Now they are trying to figure out how to retrieve these so they can be re-posted on the Bublish "live feed." So at least there is now a remote possibility that all my hard work over the last two years can be retrieved! Thanks for all your efforts to help fix this, Bublish!
Here is an activity designed to focus students on how historical fiction "works." In both THE RIDDLE OF PENNCROFT FARM and A BUSS FROM LAFAYETTE I include afterwards that detail who and what in the story are historic fact, and what elements are fictional. (Of course, I do this because whenever I read historical fiction written by others, I really want to know how much of it is accurate history and what occurred only in the imagination of the author.)
To hear me read an official Lafayette Day proclamation issued by Governor Baker of Massachusetts, check out my blog post. It sums up very well why Lafayette came and what he did for us! Here's the link: http://dorotheajensen.blogspot.com/2018/05/proclaiming-lafayette-day-in.html
A year or two ago, I visited the mission in Santa Barbara, California. One of the exhibits described how the head of the mission had gathered money together to send to George Washington in 1780. This support for the American side in the Revolutionary War was quite a surprise to me. Apparently, even though Spain was not our direct ally (but was allied with France, which WAS our direct ally) the padre felt that supporting our side would weaken England, which would benefit Spain. I wrote a blog about this. Check it out here: http://dorotheajensen.blogspot.com/2016/09/surprising-spanish-support-for-american.html
I enjoy meeting young readers of my stories, even if only electronically. I am happy to do this with classrooms of kids or groups of five or more homeschoolers. (My one requirement is that they have already read my story or have heard it read by their teacher.) I generally don't make a long formal presentation, but briefly show some interesting artifacts from my books (such as an actual riddle) and then answer questions posed by the students. It is such fun for me to do this! Contact me at email@example.com if you would like to set up such a video visit. (Schedule permitting, of course!)
In order to make printing out these handouts easy, I have posted all of them online. These can be reached through a link in the book, then downloaded and printed as needed. It occurs to me that this is a far cry from the mimeographed pages I used as a teacher way back when.However, I must say that these handouts won't have that good, good mimeograph smell.
Historical fiction in the classroom (or anywhere) provides an excellent opportunity for students to analyze points of view. After all, unlike other books, HF must have a core of truth: the historical events that support the tale. This usually makes the point of view easier to determine. How does the author portray these events? How does this differ from the way a textbook would present them? How do the characters react to or talk about them? In my writing, I try to show that there were usually widely varying opinions of what was happening at the time, and the results were never a foregone conclusion.
Another suggestion about some introductory discussion in the classroom before students read (or listen to) A BUSS FROM LAFAYETTE. It is amazing how little young people know about the Revolutionary War. (I've heard that when some students were recently asked whom we were fighting in the Revolution, the answer was ISIS.) Yikes!
This is another "before reading" question for getting students ready to read or hear the story in the classroom. BTW, I struggled with this title, as most people do NOT know what a BUSS is. I ended up using BUSS because I thought it gave it an "antique" feel. I also didn't want to give the impression that Lafayette was a "dirty old man" for kissing a young girl. I tried to make it clear in the book that bussing was perfectly acceptable under the circumstances. Besides, I myself received a buss from Lafayette - 4th or 5th-hand. This happened when I met woman whose great grandmother had been kissed by the famous man, and the buss had been passed down through her family. Of course, I asked for a buss - - -and got one!
This is an introductory question to assess what students already know about Lafayette. Many young people who are fans of the smash hit Broadway show, Hamilton, may have heard of him but know few details. A BUSS FROM LAFAYETTE will make this famous Revolutionary War general come to life in the classroom! "A winning historical tale that may appeal to young fans of the musical Hamilton." - Kirkus Reviews
I'm having fun dredging up old (and I mean OLD) skills (singing, acting, etc.) and putting them to use on my so-called author "platform". My husband just says it's my love of leaping into the spotlight. I say it's a way to put my writing into the spotlight. So there.
2014 Purple Dragonfly 1st Prize Winner, Historical Fiction; International Reading Association Teachers' Choices Selection. ". . .a wonderful book that melds both past and present together... This novel is a perfect example of historical fiction.” - Monroe County Library System. Young Lars Olafson moves from Minnesota with his parents to Penncroft Farm, the old family farm near Valley Forge, Pennsylvania. Lars is miserable until he meets Geordie, a boy whose stories of the Revolutionary War are as exciting as those of an eyewitness. Then Lars is faced with a mystery linked to the Revolution, and Geordie’s ghostly tales are his only chance of solving it. One reviewer said: ". . . two terrific stories are intertwined nicely and come together in a satisfying conclusion. Not only is the history presented in an interesting and painless manner, but also readers should come away eager to read more about this period. Middle graders are in store for a real treat with this offering." –School Library Journal, Elizabeth Mellett, Brookline Public Library, MA (THE RIDDLE OF PENNCROFT FARM is available in paperback and e-book editions.)
THE RIDDLE OF PENNCROFT FARM was released by Harcourt, Brace, Jovanovich in August, 1989, and has been in print ever since.Meanwhile, my son has made me start cleaning up my desktop computer, organizing the files and deleting duplicates etc. This is a daunting task, to say the least, as he tells me there are nearly a million files on its hard disk. Yikes.The good news is that while drudging away at this overwhelming task, I came across screen shots (unlabeled, of course) of a number of reference books/lists that include THE RIDDLE OF PENNCROFT FARM. I consider these to be an EXCELLENT anniversary present! Here they are:1. Best Books for Children: Preschool Through Grade 6 (Children and Young Adult Literature Reference) by Catherine Barr and John Gillespie; 2. 2013-2014 California Young Reader Medal Resource Guide; 3. Exploring Our Country’s History: Linking Fiction to Nonfiction (Literature Bridges to Social Studies Series) by Phyllis J. Perry; 4. Fantasy Literature for Children and Young Adults: An Annotated Bibliography Fourth Edition by Ruth Nadelman Lynn. I know there is at least one more book out there recommending RIDDLE for classroom use, but I can't remember its name. Maybe it will crop up in my archeological excavation of this overloaded computer!
Here is what I wrote in this story, my first historical novel, about von Steuben's profanity-laced training of Washington's forces at Valley Forge. (I have already posted about how I described this in my second historical novel, A Buss from Lafayette.) Although in this excerpt I do not stress the fact, apparently von Steuben himself cursed in French AND German and insisted his aides translate his curses into English. From what I've read, this trilingual cursing hugely amused the American soldiers.
In Thomas Fleming's excellent book, THE STRATEGY OF VICTORY, I found the following about Valley Forge: "There the men began building a veritable village of log cabins, while the commissary department frantically sought food to feed them. Philadelphia was only twenty miles away, enabling Washington to patrol the roads around the city with fifty-man detachments of picked troops and arrest farmers caught selling the British food for their army." Now Geordie was not selling food or drink directly to the British, (although readers know that he used some to bribe his way past British sentries and such), but he did sell to the City Tavern. This was a favorite dining spot of British officers during the occupation of Philadelphia. I wonder if any farmers were arrested for INDIRECTLY supplying food or drink to the enemy.
The building housing POWs in this description is the Pennsylvania State House, later called Independence Hall. Lest you think I exaggerated how dire conditions were for American prisoners, here are some numbers I found on the New England Historical Society Website (in the article "Seven Fun Facts about the Continental Army"): "More patriots died in British prisons than in battle. A total of 6,800 died in action, while another 6,100 were wounded. But 20,000 were taken prisoner, and of those as many as 12,000 died while prisoners." I was happy that Geordie had apples etc. to give to the prisoners when he realized how bad things were.
I wrote THE RIDDLE OF PENNCROFT FARM Iin the early 1980s. I was very pleased recently to come across an article on the website of the New England Historical Society that backed up what I wrote so long ago. Here's what it said about punishment for not using the "vaults" (also called latrines, jakes or necessaries), the troughs dug to be used as toilets: Soldiers could get whipped for failing to use the privy. When they arrived at Valley Forge, some men relieved themselves wherever they felt like it. They left the carcasses of horses to rot where they fell. Washington, concerned about disease and disgusted by ‘intolerable smells,’ ordered five lashes for anyone who did not use ‘a proper Necessary.’ He also ordered two windows cut in every hut to let in fresh air. - Seven Fun Continental Army Facts, New England Historical Society
THE RIDDLE OF PENNCROFT FARM reaches its 30th anniversary this year, and, as I may have mentioned before, is read in many US classrooms as a supplement for learning about the American Revolution. Awhile ago, out of the blue I received a FB message from a boy whose teacher (in Pennsylvania) was reading his class this book and he loved the story. I wrote back, and he told his teacher that I had. Then I heard from the teacher, who has been reading RIDDLE aloud to her classes for seventeen years! I ended up doing a video visit with her students, and later, since I was going to the Philadelphia area, I made a surprise appearance in her classroom. Such fun!
I believe that one strong factor in our soldiers surviving the winter at Valley Forge was making such jokes about their plight. (The "buff and blue" and "Firecake and water" jokes are true enough.) Lafayette's friend Baron de Kalb said that no European army would have similarly endured such hardships.
The Journal of the American Revolution posted an excellent article of the condition of American prisoners in New York captured by the British. I don't think my description here of the prisoners in the State House (now Independence Hall) is at all exaggerated. Here is the link: allthingsliberty.com/2019/01/1776-the-horror-show/
I am highlighting this little bit about the Valley Forge encampment because kids have told me that it is one of their favorite parts of the story. Perhaps it is one of the reasons that this book has been in print since 1989, and this summer will mark its 30th anniversary! I'm thrilled to tell you that the story of Lars and Geordie has NEVER gone out of print since it was first released, despite the fact its original publisher, Harcourt, Brace, Jovanovich, no longer exists as such. (RIDDLE is now under the aegis of Houghton Mifflin Harcourt.) A "Teachers Choices Selection" by the International Reading Association,THE RIDDLE OF PENNCROFT FARM is used in many classrooms across the U.S. when kids study the American Revolution. (I always get a huge kick out of seeing my title listed alongside Johnny Tremain as a reading choice on classroom websites.)
I never thought much about what drummer boys wore when I wrote this book many years ago. It occurred to me that they would need uniforms that distinguished them from weapons-bearing soldiers, but I didn't really look into this. (I guess I figured if they were obviously boys and carrying drums, it was assumed they were drummer boys. I write about this in my blog. Check it out! http://dorotheajensen.blogspot.com/2018/08/what-did-drummer-boys-wear-in-revolution.html
Today (February 23) is the anniversary of the arrival of von Steuben at the Valley Forge encampment. He soon set up the "School o the Soldier", in which he would train men and then have those men train others, who trained others, and so forth. This brilliant plan meant that by the time the Americans set off after the British after they left Philadelphia, for the first time our army was an effective fighting force. Hoorah for von Steuben!
I just want to send a huge "I HEART you" to all those teachers across the United States who have used THE RIDDLE OF PENNCROFT FARM in their classrooms, some of them 18 or 19 times! When I started doing electronic classroom visits last year (and some in person ones as well), I had a wonderful time answering questions from the teachers and the kids, whose enthusiasm delighted me! Thanks so much for making history come alive in your classrooms with my stories!
Just finishing up an audiobook of my other award-winning historical novel for young readers, A BUSS FROM LAFAYETTE. Apart from seeing my face on the screen for hours at a time (not fun at my age) as I made a simultaneous video version, it was quite fun. I am now thinking of doing the same for THE RIDDLE OF PENNCROFT FARM. I think it would be fun for teachers to be able to show their students a video of me reading a chapter or two from this classroom favorite!
Here's the runaway vehicle bit from THE RIDDLE OF PENNCROFT FARM to match the one I wrote about in another bubble about A BUSS FROM LAFAYETTE! Somewhat similar, but it is the sound of battle that sends the horses running here, rather than the sound of thunder!
To find out more about Peale, go to Grateful American Kids website, (http://gratefulamericankids.com/ga-tv/q-and-a/ ) which has a great article that starts like this: Charles Willson Peale (April 15, 1741 – Feb. 22, 1827) was an American painter, soldier, scientist, inventor, politician, and naturalist. He is best remembered for his portrait paintings of leading figures of the American Revolution, as well as for establishing one of the first museums. Born in 1741 in Chester, Queen Anne’s County, MD, Peale became an apprentice to a saddle maker when he was 13 years old. When he got older, he opened his own saddle shop, but his political enemies conspired to bankrupt his business. He tried fixing clocks and working with metals, but both of these businesses failed as well. He then took up painting.
Ok, ok, I know I wrote about settles earlier, but I'm writing about them again because I have now posted the picture of me sitting on a settle at the City Tavern (location of two scenes in this story) on my dorotheajensen.com website on the page labeled Riddle, Buss, and Scalp Games and Pix (etc.). You'll find a link to this website somewhere very close to where you are reading this.
I happened across an antique cider press last fall at Old Sturbridge Village. To see what it looked like, go to dorotheajensen.com and you'll find a picture on the "Riddle, Buss and Scalp Games, Pix, and Recipes" page, which you'll find in the left column on the home page. This one looks pretty elaborate, so I doubt Lars' dad will actually be building one. : )
I wrote this story more than thirty years ago, so was delighted to recently find proof that one of the historic al details I used was correct. The new museum about the American Revolution in Philadelphia has one of these fringed hunting shirts on display, Here's what the sign about it says: In the summer of 1775, riflemen from Pennsylvania, Maryland, and Virginia joined the New England troops already gathered in Boston to form a Continental Army. Many of these mid-Atlantic troops wore fringed hunting shirts like this example. A uniquely American garment that originated in the Virginia backcountry, it was thought to evoke the dress of Native Americans. As stories of the riflemen’s marksmanship spread, General Washington saw a psychological advantage in outfitting thousands more of the American soldiers in these distinctive shirts. In his headquarters orders for July 24th 1776, Washington wrote that he “earnestly encourages the use of hunting shirts,” in part because they were “justly supposed to carry no small terror to the enemy, who think every such person a complete marksman.” Woo hoo!
When I was in grade school, everyone had to learn to dance the Virginia Reel. I remember the boys grumbling about this. I loved this dance, however, because our family used to dance it at celebratory family gathering while my mother played the piano. When I was trying to decide how to end my story, the Virginia Reel popped into my head. If you would like to try this dance, you will find instructions posted on both dorotheajensen.com (via website link on this page), or abussfromlafayette.com. (It is on the "Music, Songs, and Dances" page on both sites. (We danced this at the launch party for A BUSS FROM LAFAYETTE, by the way. Such fun!
Enjoy these historic foods yourself! I just posted recipes for pasties and squash on my website (the link to which is posted either above or to the left of this) dorotheajensen.com. You can get to that page on my website through the link in the right column labeled "Riddle, Buss, and Scalp Games, Pix, and Recipes.
When I started researching for this story, I found the apple variety "Seek-No-Further" in an old book called PENNSYLVANIA AGRICULTURE AND COUNTRY LIFE, 1640-1840 (where I also found the farm implement called a RIDDLE). It was listed with varieties of apples raised in early Pennsylvania. Recently I searched the internet for more information about this kind of fruit. I found that its origin in America was not until 1796 in Westfield, Massachusetts, and it was mainly grown in New England. Hmmm. Then I discovered that Seek-No-Further apples were raised in Wales (UK) since the 1700s.There it was called Seek-No-Further by English speakers. Welsh speakers called it Gwell Na Mil (Better Than A Thousand). OK. Apparently there were a number of Welsh settlers in Pennsylvania, hence the town names like Bala Cynwyd and Bryn Mawr. I choose to believe that one of these Welshmen (or women) brought Seek-No-Further apple seeds to PA in the early 18th century. Therefore, Geordie's family could raise them at the time of the Revolution, and a road could be called Seek-No-Further Pike. Whew! Now I can sleep nights.
I recently found a letter I wrote to my dad in 1986 about my difficulties in getting this book written and (especially) published. In this letter I described what was happening at that time like this: "It's a most painful process." This letter also explains why I changed the p.o.v. of THE RIDDLE OF PENNCROFT FARM's modern bits. To read this, go to http://dorotheajensen.blogspot.com/2017/09/a-31-year-old-letter-about-riddle.html.
This section was based on what really happened at Valley Forge. I recently visited there (after many years) and made a short video of me reading this section. It's posted on my blog here: https://dorotheajensen.blogspot.com/2017/08/dorothea-jensen-riddle-of-penncroft.html
I recently dined at The City Tavern in Philadelphia, where Washington met Lafayette for the first time. (This place figures in later parts of this story.) Anyway, while at the City Tavern, I actually sat on a settle. To see a picture, go to my blog: http://dorotheajensen.blogspot.com/2017/06/where-washington-met-lafayette-city.html
I recently beamed into a classroom where the students had all read THE RIDDLE OF PENNCROFT FARM. One of the students asked me why I had Aunt Cass playing the organ, and why I had picked this piece. Here's the link to a audio of my reply: https://youtu.be/5Fe9Hx0SFmk
My first historical novel for young readers,THE RIDDLE OF PENNCROFT FARM, was just added to the list of "Best History Books for Kids to Read" on the Grateful American Kids website. This is part of the Grateful American Foundation, dedicated to getting kids interested in American history. RIDDLE thus joins my new historical novel for middle graders,A BUSS FROM LAFAYETTE on that list. Hooray for Lars, Geordie, and Clara! Here's the website (there is a lot of wonderful historical information posted there!): gratefulamericankids.com
I have recently learned that THE RIDDLE OF PENNCROFT FARM is still being used in school classrooms to enrich the study of the American Revolution. (This is 28 years after it was published, people!) One school contacted me and soon thereafter I made a school visit via FaceTime. It was great fun! in the following blog I talk about the questions the kids asked me about RIDDLE and what answers I gave them. (Although I must admit I added to what I actually said on screen.) Spoilers are included so please don't read unless you have already read this book. http://dorotheajensen.blogspot.com/2017/02/my-first-classroom-visit-via-21st.html
I was looking around the internet recently and discovered that part of THE RIDDLE OF PENNCROFT FARM had been presented as a little play during a re-enactment of the Battle of Brandywine. I don't think there can be a bigger thrill for an author of historical fiction than for someone to present it dramatically where it actually took place! Check out my blog for details: http://dorotheajensen.blogspot.com/2017/02/a-bit-of-riddle-enacted-at-brandywine.html
I took a picture of a cupboard over the fireplace in an 1830s house. This one isn't exactly "secret", but it is certainly in the same kind of location as where Lars thinks the will is hidden. This picture is posted on my Penncroft Farm board at pinterest.com/dgjensen116/.
Here is a more detailed description of how Howe outflanked the American troops, specifically Sullivan's, as mentioned in A BUSS FROM LAFAYETTE. Squire Cheyney really did finally convince Washington what was really going on. I just had Geordie help him do this!
This was based on a trick our 3 year old son pulled on my grandmother when she helped take care of him when his younger brother was born. We did not have a clothes dryer, and every time she went outside to hang up the wash, he would lock the door. Luckily for him, Grammy thought it was funny. (Oops, I just realized I already wrote about this.) However, I recently made a video of opening a door with a latchstring, which reminded me of this bit in RIDDLE. Find it on my blog: dorotheajensen.blogspot.com
Remember the story in which a penniless man cozened everyone into adding vegetables to what he claimed to be "nail soup?" (The very last thing he did was to remove the nail on the sly and eat the fine soup.) That is what this excerpt amounts to. I saw a Revolutionary War drum in a museum and it was one large spur to my writing this story. I was going to have Geordie be a drummer boy in Washington's army, then I decided to have Ned Owens be one instead, which makes Geordie jealous. For the big finish/reveal about Sandy, I had her beating on such a drum as she rode behind Will to Penncroft Farm. Which was ridiculous. It would just not have been possible, especially as she would have been perched behind him with both legs on one side because she was wearing a dress. (This was called riding "aside" rather than "astride", I believe.) The very last thing I did before this book went to press was take the drum out of Sandy's hands. (So glad I did.)
Once again, I had fun with the ancestor whom modern day Eddy Owens always brags about. I made him a fan not only of Conway (of Valley Forge infamy), but also BENEDICT ARNOLD! Of course, this is all revealed in the diaries, so Eddy (and everyone else) finds out about it.
Von Steuben's "School for the Soldier" was a brilliant method of teaching the untrained Americans. He himself taught a few men how to move by command, then had each of them teach others, who taught others, etc. Apparently von Steuben would swear at them in French and German, then have his aide swear at them in English, which the soldiers found to be very funny. At the end of the terrible winter of 1777-8 at Valley Forge, we had a trained army. (When we lived near Philadelphia in the 1970s, we went to Valley Forge many, many times. Our two sons learned to ride their bicycles there. Quite a different kind of learning!)
Music was a huge part of my growing up. My mother was a professional musician, a cellist and a pianist. She taught me to sing something like 20 songs (melody and lyrics and nicely in tune, so I'm told) BEFORE I turned 2. Some of my best memories are of us five kids singing folk songs while Mom accompanied us on the piano. (This was in the 1950s, people, long before folk music hit the hit parade.) Therefore, it seemed natural to have Pat's singing a folk song be the means for Lars to learn exactly who Geordie was.
Yet another true event that I found in my research and decided to put into RIDDLE. It must have seemed almost miraculous to the hungry soldiers at Valley Forge!! (Besides, it gave me a chance to hint that Sandy is not quite what he appeared to be.)
I learned that covered bridges were mostly built during the 19th, rather than the 18th century. I couldn't resist having Lars meet Geordie in a covered bridge at the beginning of the story, as there are covered bridges in that part of Pennsylvania now. I wanted to have a setting that seemed odd and antique to Lars. Also, I needed them to meet somewhere where it was a bit hard to see. (Remember that Lars first thinks that Geordie is a girl because of his "ponytail" and puffy sleeves.) I put this part in to suggest that covered bridges were built later than when Geordie was young, during the time of the Revolution.
I came across these jokes made by the soldiers during the terrible winter of 1777-8 at Valley Forge and put them into my story. It seemed to me that these were an excellent example of how soldiers and other Americans often use humor to get through terrible experiences. (Maybe people from other countries do, too; I don't know.) In any case, "buff and blue" and "firecakes and water" apparently did help these guys to endure.
This kind of chanting apparently really did happen at Valley Forge. When I learned about this, it seemed to belong in my story!
Just before we moved from Wayne, Pennsylvania, to Minneapolis, Minnesota, in 1981, my older son's school had a "Colonial Day". He was in 4th grade or so, and I believe they had been studying life in colonial America. Parents were asked to help out, and I ended up demonstrating "finger weaving" with yarn, something I knew nothing about. I must have had a crash course. I cobbled together a costume of sorts to look vaguely "colonial", but the only antique-looking hat I owned was a lace one I had brought back with me from Holland (where we lived in the mid-1970s). Oddly enough, 30 years later I learned that the first of my ancestors who came here as colonists actually were from the Netherlands. (These were the Yerxas, who 3 or 4 generations later were Loyalists and moved to Canada at the beginning of the American Revolution.) So as it turns out, my head was actually authentically garbed for my own family tree.Anyway, several years later when I started to write The Riddle of Penncroft Farm, I remembered the Wayne Elementary School Colonial Day festivities and ended up using such a setting for the Big Finish of the story.
What is now known as Independence Hall was originally the Pennsylvania State House. Building was begun in 1732 but was not finished until 1753. It was here that the Continental Congress met and the Declaration of Independence was adopted.( It was also here that the Constitution was debated and signed, in 1787.) No wonder the British used it to house American prisoners of war during the occupation of Philadelphia the winter of 1777-1778! What better way to show contempt for what had happened within its walls.
I needed to find an 18th century toy that could have survived as a family heirloom into the 20th century to use in my story. I later learned that this toy was also called a "bilbo-catcher". I would have loved to use this in RIDDLE but it was too late. A picture of a bilbo-catcher is on the RIDDLE OF PENNCROFT FARM page of my website, with a link to my blog about it. (I have to wonder if Tolkien had this toy in mind when he named Bilbo Baggins.)
And here's the modern scene I wrote to "bookend" the 18th century one in my last bubble. It was a challenge to write such corresponding scenes in such a way that each era reverberated off the other. I remember how much fun it was to figure out how to do this!
The City Tavern was a favorite meeting place of the Founding Fathers. It was the scene of the first meeting between George Washington and Lafayette. It was also a favorite of British officers during the winter of 1777-8, when Philadelphia was occupied by the enemy. The City Tavern was rebuilt in 1976 and serves 18th century fare by costumed wait staff. I set two scenes in this historic site. Here is the 18th century one. I have posted photos of the City Tavern exterior and interior on the RIDDLE OF PENNCROFT FARM page of my website. I also wrote about it on my blog. http://dorotheajensen.blogspot.com/2015/10/riddle-of-penncroft-farm-scenes-at-city.html
I have posted a picture of the covered bridge near the "real" Penncroft Farm on the RIDDLE page of my website. Covered bridges were not common until well into the 19th century, so this one would NOT have been around when Geordie lived at Penncroft Farm. Also check out my blog post about this picture! http://dorotheajensen.blogspot.com/2015/10/another-setting-from-riddle-of.html
In the 1970s, we lived for five years in Wayne, PA, outside Philadelphia. (Wayne, BTW, was named after "Mad" Anthony Wayne, a Pennsylvanian who served in the Revolution War with distinction and was quite a colorful character, apparently.) Our sons learned to ride bikes at Valley Forge, and our family often visited Brandywine Battlefield and historic sites in Philadelphia. We especially liked eating lunch at the City Tavern. (More about that later.) A couple we knew while we lived there had a horse farm they named "Penncroft Farm". Their house was built in the antique Pennsylvania style, with different sections that had differing exterior finishes. After we moved to Minnesota in 1981, I did not want my kids to forget the history we had experienced while living in Pennsylvania. Very soon after that, I started writing a story about a boy who moved from Minnesota to Pennsylvania. I needed a name for the farm where he and his family were to make their new home. I wanted it to sound a bit exotic to the Minnesota boy, and reflect the Pennsylvania location. Then I remembered the name of our friends' farm and borrowed its name: "Penncroft Farm". (A picture of the "original" place is posted on the RIDDLE OF PENNCROFT FARM page of my website.)
Re-reading RIDDLE for Bublish has gotten me thinking about the nature of historical fiction. I'm beginning to regard the modern story in this book as nearly as "bygone" an era as the historical part! Check out my blog on the subject: http://dorotheajensen.blogspot.com/2015/10/the-riddle-of-penncroft-farm-historical.html
We lived close to Philadelphia for a number of years in the 1970s. I found it fascinating to read about its occupation by the British in the winter of 1777-8. First of all, this occupation did not accomplish what the British general, Howe, thought it would. Used to European warfare in which capturing the enemy's capital meant ending the war, Howe found that the only thing making Philadelphia the capital was the Continental Congress meeting there. The Congress easily moved elsewhere and the loss of Philadelphia did little damage to American morale, despite the fact that the city suffered damage indeed! (BTW I originally wrote "the thitty is thmiling at me" for Geordie's lisped lines. Apparently the editor did not approve!)
One reason I wrote this book was to help young readers understand that for a good part of the Revolutionary War, America was LOSING to Britain. Gaining independence was definitely NOT a foregone conclusion. The American leaders really did risk being hanged as traitors. When I found this expression that was in use at the time about 1777 looking like gallows for them, I had to put it in my story somewhere. I thought it sounded exactly like something Geordie's brother, Will, might say. So he did.
I had to fight with my editor at Harcourt to keep archaic words in this story. (I put a glossary at the end of the book to help young readers learn the meaning of these words.) However, what is mentioned more than anything else in the fan mail I have received about THE RIDDLE OF PENNCROFT FARM is how much the letter writers loved these old words!
Here is the modern "antagonist", Eddie Owens, bragging about his ancestor (as mentioned in a previous bubble) and getting it all wrong! His ancestor actually gave George Washington the WRONG information. Lars knows that it was his "friend", Geordie, who actually helped convince Washington that the British were outflanking the American troops.
I wanted to underscore how difficult it is to know the precise meaning of historical artifacts. For this, I needed Geordie to leave an artifact behind on the battlefield at Brandywine. His toy soldier seemed to fill the bill. I also thought it might show that Geordie's experience at Brandywine has moved him past childhood. As you will see, his childhood toy is definitely misinterpreted two centuries later!
I came across this true happening in my research for Riddle and simply HAD to use it! The image of Washington close behind poor old Mr. Brown, shouting "Push along, old man, push aiong!", was too good to ignore!
Eddy Owens, the modern main character's nemesis, is always bragging about his ancestors. It was fun to reveal that he has a family tree with less-than-heroic characters in it!
American vedettes (mounted sentries) were caught unawares by the British army at Welch's Tavern. They had to run away without their horses to avoid capture. I just put Geordie in the tavern with 'em!
Although this book was published in the 20th century, it has now moved into the 21st: it has a "trailer". There's a link to this on the home page of my website: www.dorotheajensen.com. Enjoy!
This is based on a true story. Squire Cheyney did exist, and he tried to warn Washington about the British flanking movement. He had a very difficult time doing so, but eventually Washington believed him. I just gave Squire Cheyney some fictional company in his desperate attempt to warn Washington.
This was loosely based on an incident when the orchestra my mother was in played Tchaikovsky's 1812 Overture in a college fieldhouse. When the "cannon" boomed (by firing a blank from a gun into a barrel) one engineering student sitting in front of us asked, sounding quite alarmed, "What's that?!?" His friend answered quite matter-of-factly,"12 gauge, I think." Want to hear what the Toccata and Fugue sounds like? Follow this link: https://youtu.be/IVJD3dL4diY
I was delighted to find out that George Washington liked his men to wear leather hunting shirts so they looked like genuine sharpshooters to the British. It seems that the Father of Our Country knew that looking the part was an important element in facing the enemy. Even without elaborate uniforms!
These leather hat ornaments showed the political loyalty of the wearer. Early in the Revolutionary War, many American soldiers had no uniforms, so cockades were an important "decoration" for them. There were black at first, then later white cockades were put over them. I explain why in this blog post: http://dorotheajensen.blogspot.com/2015/08/cockades-not-just-pretty-ornament.html
I always loved this folk song as a child, so I decided to put it into my story. If you want to hear what it sounds like, check out my YouTube audio recording of it. https://youtu.be/hFmj3OxDfec
Earlier in this chapter, Lars had wondered why a Quaker meetinghouse had no stained glass windows like other churches. When I originally wrote this account of Aunt Cass's Quaker memorial service, Lars listened to all the different memories of her from her family and friends during the service. He then realized that this was a little like putting bits of glass of many colors together to create a beautiful stained glass window. It wasn't until years after THE RIDDLE OF PENNCROFT FARM was published that I noticed my metaphor was missing. Apparently my editor decided she didn't like it. Rats!
I realized when I re-read this that naming this character "Pat" was a another sideways reference to THE SHERWOOD RING. This was a favorite of mine in junior high, and in a way, I wrote THE RIDDLE OF PENNCROFT FARM as an homage to this story. (A main character in THE SHERWOOD RING is also named Pat, which is a also way of concealing his real name.) For more about the "reverberations" between my story and THE SHERWOOD RING, see my blog post: http://dorotheajensen.blogspot.com/2015/08/homage-to-sherwood-ring-1.html
I guess this is about as close to an "author's message" as anything else I put into this book. It is also the reason I wrote THE RIDDLE OF PENNCROFT FARM in the first place, I guess. For more about the challenges of writing historical fiction that shows the complexity of the past, see my blog: http://dorotheajensen.blogspot.com/2015/08/help-help-im-drowning-in-notes.html
This is part of the chapter I submitted for a children's literature competition at The Loft, a Minnesota writers' organization. When I sent it in, I decided to give my name as D. G. Jensen, so the judges would not know my gender. As my main character is a boy, I didn't want them to start reading the manuscript looking for ways in which a woman author failed to portray him realistically. (I'm a bit paranoid.) The winners were to be announced in April. In February, however, my phone rang. "Is this D. G. Jensen? I'm calling from The Loft, and I need to know how your first name is spelled," said the caller. "Why do you need to know that?," I asked, knowing my cover was about to be blown. "So we know who to make the check out to. You won." "D-O-R-O-T-H-E-A," I spelled hastily. I soon read this chapter aloud at the award ceremony, was interviewed on MPR and was on my way as an author!
I have posted a picture of a "stake-and-rider" fence on my blog. Take a look! http://dorotheajensen.blogspot.com/2015/08/another-riddle-tidbit-stake-and-rider.html
I named Lars's new teacher after the teacher I had when I was his age, Mrs. Maybelle Hettrick. Her family had been homesteaders in Oklahoma, where she had met Geronimo, jailed in her town after his capture. (For more about her, see my blog: http://dorotheajensen.blogspot.com/2015/06/laura-ingalls-wilder-and-me-part-2.html)
Obviously, this refers to the 1954 movie, "20,000 Leagues Under the Sea", starring Kirk Douglas and James Mason. It was based on the science fiction novel by Jules Verne, published in 1870. The mysterious captain of the 19th century conception of a submarine, the Nautilus, calls himself "Nemo" - which means no-name. Of course, the Nautilus itself was named for a snail-like sea creature. This music was also in Fantasia 2000.
My family first encountered squash in Center City Philadelphia, where it was on the menu at an outdoor restaurant near Independence Hall (with an explanation of its colonial origins). From then on, we often mixed orange juice and lemonade to make squash. It does sound strange, however. No wonder Lars was not enthusiastic when Aunt Cass brought it up!
"Seek-no-further" was the name of an antique variety of apples. (I believe some are being raised again today as an "heirloom" variety.) I decided that because Penncroft Farm was primarily an orchard, "Seek-no-further" apples might have been raised there, and the nearby road could have been named for it. Besides, I just liked the sound of it!
This came from something my older son did as a child when my grandmother came to visit. Just like Aunt Cass, my gramma simply thought it was funny! (She always had a soft spot for little boys.) Of course, no latchstrings were involved. : )
The original hardcover edition of THE RIDDLE OF PENNCROFT FARM had a wraparound jacket. The back cover had a beautiful picture of a colonial era Pennsylvania-style house. However, there was one glaring error: the road appears to be up hill from the house and the barn! It would be really tough for a runaway wagon to go up that hill. There's an image of this original jacket on the RIDDLE OF PENNCROFT FARM page at my website. Just click on "website" above, then click on THE RIDDLE OF PENNCROFT FARM in the left column of the main page. (There's another big error on the front cover, but that one was apparently deliberate. I'll talk about that soon!)
This idea came from something my husband told me. When he was in junior high, no one at his school was allowed to wear a costume to school on Halloween. One boy, who had just moved there from another state (where costumes were apparently the custom) showed up in a Halloween costume . The poor guy was mortified when he realized he was the only one in a costume. I turned the situation around and made Lars the only one in the class who is NOT wearing a costume.
I found the name of this antique farm implement in a huge old book called PENNSYLVANIA AGRICULTURE AND COUNTRY LIFE 1640-1840. As an inveterate punster, I had no choice: I absolutely HAD to use RIDDLE in my book, and to put it in the title as a wordplay. Some might even call it a riddle. The word RIDDLE has survived only in phrases such as "riddled with bullets" etc. In addition, the grate that is shaken to remove ashes from a coal stove is called a riddle, so someone can "riddle the ashes". This use is not in most people's vocabularies these days, however.
In my first draft of this book, Aunt Cass had died before the story began. Bill Iverson (an expert in the field of children's literature and the father of a college friend) kindly read this draft and suggested that I keep Aunt Cass alive until Lars could get to know her. I did this, and modeled her on my own rather eccentric grandmother. This "Why didn't you pick more peas?" story was actually something my grandmother said to Bill Iverson's son, Peter, ten years after the peapicking endeavor had taken place. Poor Peter had been one of the pea pickers who had not fulfilled her expectations, and he had not seen her since that day.
The idea for this story occurred to me when I moved from Pennsylvania to Minnesota in 1981 with my husband and three children. My two boys had learned to ride bikes at Valley Forge, and had visited Independence Hall, Brandywine Battlefield, and other Revolutionary War sites in and near Philadelphia. I decided to write this story to help them to remember this history, but I decided to reverse the situation. Instead of moving from the Philadelphia area to Minneapolis, my main character, Lars, moves from Minnesota to Pennsylvania. And he is NOT happy about it!
Santa's Izzy Elves #1! Winner of the prestigious Mom's Choice Award, in the Juvenile Level I (Ages 5-8 Years), honoring "the best in family-friendly media". Naughty Owen and Alex sneak downstairs early on Christmas morning before their parents are up and open one of their big presents from Santa. They are disappointed to find that it is a bookshelf filled with books - not the electronic games they were hoping for. Their disappointment turns to amazement and concern, however, when they find Tizzy, one of Santa's elves, who has been packed inside the bookshelf by mistake. Tizzy, desperate to get back to the North Pole, points out that Santa's sleigh is powered by the imaginations of children, and asks the two boys to use the power of their own imaginations to send him home. But how?
There are some obvious reasons, primarily Dr. Seuss, Clement Moore, and Shel Silverstein: I have always loved their poems. In thinking about this, however, I was reminded of my favorite course in college: the Augustans. I fell in love with the rhythms and rhymes of Pope's poetry. Something about it made me feel it was like listening to Mozart: orderly, but emotional, amusing, and satisfying. So I guess that, believe it or not, I must add Pope to my list of sources of inspirations.
We Izzies are in an advanced state of shock/ The calendar tells us (and so does the clock)/ That Christmas is coming: we'd better get busy/ To do all the tasks S. C. asks of Elves Izzy.
Just wanted to let everyone know that I was recently interviewed about my Izzy Elves on a podcast by Jed Doherty. It will be posted online on December 8th. I always enjoy talking about the Izzies! Tune in at http://readingwithyourkids.com. (I'll post the exact link when I get it.) Jed interviews many authors on his podcast to encourage parents to read to their kids.
I had fun reading the beginning of this story aloud and making a video of it! Check it out at my website, dorotheajensen.com. (There's a link to it somewhere nearby on this very page cleverly labeled "website".) Once you get to the website it's on the page marked "Videos" (another clever label). Enjoy!
Tizzy has told the boys that Santa's sleigh is powered by the imagination of children, and that they need to use their own to get him home. They think maybe using some kind of toy will do it. Their first choice? A model train. I loved the idea of an Izzy Elf taking a ride inside an electric train. Does it work? You'll have to read the story to find out! (Learn more about Tizzy et al at my website, dorotheajensen.com.)
Here is Tizzy's description of all the Izzy Elves. (Tizzy himself, we later learn, picks out the books that Santa brings to children.) Anyway, all the Izzies are VERY BUSY today. Here's a message from them: We Izzies are starting to reach panic mode/We try not to worry, but find our work load/A bit overwhelming at this time of year:/We just can't believe Christmas Eve is so NEAR! (To see what all the Izzies look like, visit my website, dorotheajensen.com, and look at the Izzy Elf Games and Pix page. (You'll find a handy link to the website either to the left of the bubble, or up above.)
Bizzy is always trying to tell the other Izzies what to do. How do they handle this? Here's an explanation: Bizzy thinks we should do what he tells us, exactly/But we Izzies ignore all his orders, in fact we/Most often do just as we like, even so/We do it in secret so he doesn't know! (Bizzy is going to be the subject of my next story. I look forward to rhyming all his bluster!) To see more pix of Bizzy and all the other elves, check out the Izzy Elf Games and Pix page on my website, dorotheajensen,com. (Look for a nearby link, named, appropriately, "website".
It seemed to me that the Izzies might think the Northern Lights were fireworks. Also, I Iiked the idea that the elves dancing in a ring was actually the "arctic circle." Don't ask me how this all works. That's just how it is.
OK. Here's the deal. I used Tizzy for the name of the elf in this first story. I don't remember the reason, as it was 1991, too many years ago to remember. I think I picked it because I thought this elf would be VERY upset at being shipped away from home by mistake, therefore "in a tizzy." To my amazement, I found that it was easy to think of other elf names ending in -izzy, i.e. Quizzy, who makes puzzles and games etc. Then I was on a roll! Check out elf pix, trailers, and GIFs on my website, dorotheajensen.com (Look for the link, probably to the left.)
I had lots of fun, 27 years ago when I wrote this, figuring ways to put tiny echoes of "A Visit from St. Nicholas" into my verses. Someone from Kirkus seemed to like this. Here is a review of Dizzy's story: Appealing Energy and Colorful Verbal Imagery A little elf’s clandestine adventure as a stowaway on Santa’s sleigh takes an unexpected turn in an engaging contemporary spin on the classic 19th-century poem, “A Visit from St. Nicholas”...The author propels her present-day take on the classic Christmas poem with gentle humor and suspense, smoothly incorporating lines from the original poem into her lively tale about a stowaway elf. –Kirkus Reviews
I first wrote this story in 1992, when video games were physical discs that could be packed in a box, and not downloadable apps. Since I am always many steps behind in the tech world, I'm afraid this part is going to stay stuck in the 20th century!
My inspiration for writing this story about Tizzy came from when I was in Kindergarten. My dad, a family doctor, went on a home call very early Christmas morning. When he came home, he decided to turn on the Christmas tree lights for the family to see when we came downstairs. When he crawled underneath to plug in the lights, the Christmas tree fell over on top of him. We kids heard the crash, and figured that Santa had been trapped in our living room. So exciting! My older brother, Paul, refused to let us go downstairs. I was hugely frustrated by missing this chance. So I made up for it by putting a version of "trapped Santa" - albeit another elf entirely - into a story!
The two boys in this story were named after two of my grandsons. They assure me that they would NEVER do anything as naughty as going downstairs on Christmas morning before their parents were awake. Uh huh.
Santa's Izzy Elves #2! Winner of the prestigious Mom's Choice Award, in the Juvenile Level I (Ages 5-8 Years), honoring "the best in family-friendly media. Blizzy, Tizzy's "favorite lass", is the only elf who notices that Tizzy is missing on Christmas morning. When she starts questioning all her friends about when they saw him last, and where Tizzy could possibly be, however, they think she is just being a "worrywart". What Blizzy REALLY is, however, is very, very clever, and she just might figure out the mystery!
I haven't decided yet if Mrs. Claus does meditation or yoga with the Izzy Elves to help them deal with Christmas Stress. Maybe she leads them in a circle shoulder massage? That would make a good illustration. (I could have used some of this therapy when my kids were small and Christmas Loomed Large.) Anyway, here is a little verse about Mrs. C., who has actually never appeared in an Izzy Elf book: Whenever we stress out a little too much/We need to relax with a kind woman's touch/The woman in question is our Mrs. Claus/Who helps us stop fretting and helps us hit "Pause."
FIZZY'S JOB CHALLENGES:: Fizzy makes toys that surprise, and it's tough/To build in the secrets that thrill kids enough. "Kids today," she explains, "know a little too much,/To be truly surprised by hand-buzzers and such!"
The elfascope is what Dizzy is working on as he rushes to finish everything by Christmas. Meanwhile, here's the Christmas Countdown #3! Just eight days 'til Christmas and at the North Pole/We Izzies are working away, with one goal:/To make the right gifts for each child on the list./(We want to make sure not a one has been missed.)
OK, OK. I'm finally starting to make Christmas Countdown verses for the Izzies. Here is one about Whizzy, who wraps all the present all the other Izzy Elves make. Poor Whizzy cannot get ahead of the game/His problem each Christmas is always the same:He can't finish this wrapping until Christmas Eve/ (just minutes before Santa's ready to leave.)/And why, you may ask, is there such a delay/ For Whiz to wrap presents to pack in the sleigh?/It's because he must wait until each Izzy Elf/ Is done before he can start working himself!
Tizzy's own job is not mentioned in the Tizzy book, but his getting trapped in a bookcase was a bit of a hint. It occurred to me recently that Tizzy's job is really huge: having to deal with thousands of books. I suspect that he is about discover how e-books could lighten his load. Once I find a good rhyme for " e-book", I'll figure it out. (I suspect Tizzy will still prefer paper books, however.) Meanwhile, here's a bit of doggerel about Tizzy's job: Just a few days remain until we are all done/ And Tizzy is surely the busiest one/.For he has to do all his work in his head:/With thousands and thousands of books to be read!
OK. We admit it. We have posted this bit of verse somewhere before. However, as December approaches (yikes!) we just like to remind you who Blizzy is and what she does. (This is not from her story:it is an Extra Bit that Deedy (Dorothea Jensen to you) made up for fun! Be sure to read it aloud! Ok. Here goes: Blizzy makes snow globes with North Poles inside/That, when shaken up, contain snowflakes that glide./She says they give children of all earthly lands/A bit of "White Christmas" to hold in their hands.
I'm starting to figure out Bizzy's story before I start writing it. Because of this, I have been looking for mentions of this Know-It-All elf in the other Izzy Elf stories. Here's the introduction of Bizzy in Blizzy, the S.A.D. Elf. This clearly shows that it is only Bizzy himself who thinks the other Izzies should do what he says.
I had fun reading the beginning of this story aloud and making a video of it! Check it out at my website, dorotheajensen.com. (There's a link to it somewhere nearby on this very page cleverly labeled "website".) Once you get to the website it's on the page marked "Videos" (another clever label). Enjoy!
Missing her dollies is an annual problem for Frizzy. She finally decides to fix this in Frizzy, the S.A.D. Elf. She does NOT envision the outcome, however! For more about the Izzy Elves, including pictures and games, visit dorotheajensen.com (to which there is a link somewhere close by on this page.)
Shayne Hood, who has illustrated two of my four (so far) Izzy Elf stores, is also a skilled animator. She has created a GIF (animated picture, for those of you who don't know) for each elf who has already starred in these stories. The one for Dizzy features what Blizzy sees through his newly invented elfascope. Check it out on the "Izzy Elf Games and Pix" page of my website, dorotheajensen.com. (There should be a link to that site VERY CLOSE BY.)
I made up the following last year for Frizzy's Bubble, but now that Blizzy is posted, I'm re-bubbling it. (Nota bene: all Blizzy's mistletoe hanging might be in vain and some other elf's mistletoe ends in her kiss. Anyway, here is what the other Izzies say about Blizzy:We are all quite amused to watch Blizzy the elf/Hang mistletoe bunches up all by herself./And she's hung up so many that she cannot miss:/Her Tizzy will give her a mistletoe kiss!
As a kid, I always wondered how Santa could possibly eat millions of cookies left for him. When I was writing this story, it suddenly occurred to me that he might bring the ones he couldn't consume back to the North Pole to share with his hardworking elves. Light bulb! To see pix and GIFs of all my Izzy Elves, check out my website at dorotheajensen.com. (There should be a link to it very nearby - usually to the left of this bubble!)
I must confess I published this last year as a Frizzy Bubble, but I decided that since Blizzy's story is finally Bublished, I'd repost it! Here you go:Blizzy makes snowglobes with North Poles inside/That, when shaken up, contain snowflakes that glide./ She says they give children of all earthly lands/A bit of "White Christmas" to hold in their hands.
I LOVE WRITING STORIES IN ANAPESTIC TETRAMETER (just like Clement Moore). All my elf poems start out like his "A Visit from Saint Nicholas" in some way or other. Here we meet Blizzy, who makes snow globes. Or, as Tizzy puts it in TIZZY, THE CHRISTMAS SHELF ELF, "While Blizzy's the last (she's my favorite lass)/she fashions the snowflakes that swirl under glass.
Santa's Izzy Elves #3! "A little elf’s clandestine adventure as a stowaway on Santa’s sleigh takes an unexpected turn in an engaging contemporary spin on the classic 19th-century poem, “A Visit from St. Nicholas”...The author propels her present-day take on the classic Christmas poem with gentle humor and suspense, smoothly incorporating lines from the original poem into her lively tale about a stowaway elf." –Kirkus Reviews Santa's Izzy Elves stories are not your usual picture books: older kids who enjoy playing with words and reading rhythmical verse will love them, too! One reason for this is that although these stories echo the famous 19th century poem, "A Visit from St. Nicholas" Santa's Izzy Elves are definitely 21st century, with electronic devices galore in their North Pole workshop! This "Story Monster Approved" third story in the series tells what happens when Dizzy, eager to have an adventure of his own, sneaks aboard Santa’s sleigh on Christmas Eve. He literally drops into the bedroom of two little boys, Drake and Stuart, and the three of them share a wild joy ride that might be even more of an adventure than Dizzy was hoping for!
CALENDAR MYSTERY; We Izzies can never quite figure out why/The rest of the year seems to just dawdle by/But when we arrive at December the first/The days before Christmas flash by in a burst!
I had fun reading the beginning of this story aloud and making a video of it! Check it out at my website, dorotheajensen.com. (There's a link to it somewhere nearby on this very page, cleverly labeled "website".) Once you get to the website it's on the page marked "Videos" (another clever label). Enjoy!
Fizzy and Dizzy both make "toys that surprise". Here's how Tizzy described their job in TIZZY, THE CHRISTMAS SHELF ELF: Now, Fizzy and Dizzy—they both specialize/In holiday treats and in toys that surprise/Hand buzzers and squirt guns and magical rings/Jacks in the boxes and those sorts of things. But Fizzy (and probably Dizzy, too) is finding the work rather challenging these days. Here is her Christmas Countdown Verse: Fizzy makes toys that surprise, and it's tough/To build in the secrets that thrill kids enough./ "Kids today," she explains, "know a little too much,/To be truly surprised by hand-buzzers and such!"
Here's a bit of Dizzy's story and a Christmas Countdown verse for December 3! Twenty two days til Christmas and at the North Pole/ We Izzies are working away, with one goal/To make the right gifts for each child on the list.(We want to make sure not a one has been missed.)
Stuey and Drake are smart, spirited boys/Let's hope their adventure won't forfeit new toys!/We Izzies have made gifts for them specially/Please don't mess this up just to spy on S.C.! * * * Note from Deedy: to learn more about the Izzy Elves and their stories, please visit my website dorotheajensen.com (the link, cleverly labelled WEBSITE) is on this page, so it's easy-peasy to beam over to visit!
We Izzies are pleased to announce that this year/We're counting down days until Christmas is here./As usual, Deedy assists with our rhyme. (It's tricky, but nevertheless a good time.) * * *Note from Deedy: since my IzzyElves website has disappeared (another Mystery of the Internet), to see pix of the elves etc., please visit my website at dorotheajensen.com.
For a peek at the illustration that goes with this part of the story, as well as a "re-enactment" with the REAL Stuart and Drake, check out the post at: http://izzyelfblog.blogspot.com/2017/01/dizzy-fied-grandboys.html
Deedy says she so busy she hasn't had time/To work every day on a counting down rhyme. She hopes to make up with a verse for today/That shows how she boarded a Dizzy-type sleigh./(We Izzies are proud she decided to fix/ Her counting down gap with some Izzy-type pix.)/ TO SEE THE PICTURES, GO HERE! http://izzyelfblog.blogspot.com/2016/12/deedy-finally-put-her-elf-hat-back-on.html
So I've decided to continue publishing couplets for you to read every day in a sort of poetic Advent Calendar. Here's the one for today, DECEMBER 1: We Izzies are in an advanced state of shock/The calendar tells us (and so does the clock)/That Christmas is coming: we'd better get busy/To do all the tasks S. C. asks of Elves Izzy.
We Izzy Elves are sorry, but time is getting so short until Christmas Eve that we are once again forced to use an old verse from our book trailer for grownups. (If you want to watch the whole thing, follow the link to my website and click on the "book trailers" tab.) Here is the verse: Our antics are funny and all in a rhyme/We guarantee you will all have a good time!/We’re twenty-first century elves, you will see,/Including our boss, whom we all call S.C.
So the Izzy Elves are quite proud of all their stories in verse. Here's how they put it: Jingle bells, jingle bells jingle all the way./ Oh what fun it is to read our Izzy books each day./ How you'll smile! How you'll laugh! Every girl and boy!/ You will find our stories overflow with Christmas joy!
Here's a verse for dear Whizzy. He is the elf who accidentally trapped his friend inside a bookcase that was delivered by Santa Claus in TIZZY, THE CHRISTMAS SHELF ELF. BTW, we Izzy Elves hope you are enjoying our little poetic countdown to Christmas Eve. Only six more days (and nights, actually) to get all our work done! Whizzy, who rushes around, must keep hurrying/To "keep up" for him means unending elf-scurrying/ For he paper-wraps toys that the other elves make/And bow-ties the presents that Santa will take.
OK, so Tizzy is Dizzy's best friend and they work next to each other all year. But even Dizzy has to admit that Tizzy might just have more work to do than anyone else. (Tizzy's selects gift books for Santa to deliver to children.) Anyway, here is today's Countdown Verse: Only nine days remain until we are all done/ And Tizzy is surely the busiest one./ For he has to do all his work in his head:/ With thousands and thousands of books to be read! (But he does love it!)
The Izzy Elves have decided to write poems counting down to Christmas. Since poetry doesn't show up in Bubbles very well, please go to the IzzyElfBlog to read the first one. Here is how it begins: ‘Tis twelve days til Christmas and at the North Pole We Izzies are working away, with one goal: To make the right gifts for each child on the list. (We want to make sure not a one has been missed.) Read the rest at: http://izzyelfblog.blogspot.com/2015/12/counting-down-to-christmas-in-rhyme.html
To watch the real-life Stuart talk about taking a ride in Santa's sleigh, check out this little video! https://youtu.be/d73cYdnb-qo
I figured that Santa would have as much trouble dealing with modern technology as most of us grandparents do these days. I often resort to consulting someone with a "younger-type brain" about technical mysteries. Even my five year old grandson (who is the younger boy in this story) has more self-confidence and know how with tablets, smart phones, and the like than I do. In the story, his older brother is the one who figures out how to work the Virtual Reins, but he could certainly have done it, too!
I had fun thinking about what it would be like for one of Santa's Izzy Elves to stow away by hiding in the back of his sleigh. It seemed to me that it would definitely NOT be a comfortable ride!
I recorded audio versions of all the Izzy Elf stories at Rocking Horse Studios, here in NH. I just pretended I was reading to my grandsons. It was great fun. If you want to hear a sample, go to https://youtu.be/-ANGVh5qBQQ. (Links also available on my website, dorotheajensen.com.)
My inspiration for writing the Izzy Elf books came from when I was in Kindergarten. My dad, a family doctor, went on a home call very early Christmas morning. When he came home, he decided to turn on the Christmas tree lights for the family to see when we came downstairs. When he crawled underneath to plug in the lights, the Christmas tree fell over on top of him. We kids heard the crash, and figured that Santa had been trapped in our living room. So exciting! My older brother, Paul, refused to let us go downstairs. I was hugely frustrated by missing this chance. So I made up for it by putting it into a story!
I finally made a trailer for Dizzy's story. There is a link to it on the home page of my website, www.dorotheajensen.com. Enjoy!
My first of these stories, TIZZY, THE CHRISTMAS SHELF ELF, featured two of my grandsons, Owen and Alex. (They help get an elf stranded in their living room back to the Pole.) I wrote this third book, DIZZY, THE STOWAWAY ELF, about two more grandsons, Stuart and Drake. Soon afterwards, twin grandboys arrived, so I am in the process of writing BIZZY, THE KNOW-IT-ALL ELF starring them. (Note that there are NO granddaughters.) Here's where you can hear me reading this excerpt: https://youtu.be/-ANGVh5qBQQ
Santa's Izzy Elves #4! First Prize, Young Adult/Children’s Category, The Red City Book Awards; Winner, Santa Choice Award. “...a highly original and wonderfully developed children’s book...” - Red City Review .The Santa's Izzy Elves stories are not your usual picture books: older kids who enjoy playing with words and reading rhythmical rhyming verse will love them, too! One reason for this is that although these stories echo the famous 19th century poem, "A Visit from St. Nicholas" Santa's Izzy Elves are definitely 21st century, with electronic devices galore in their North Pole workshop! In this fourth story of the series, Frizzy, one of Santa's Izzy Elves, styles the hair of Christmas dollies, but misses them dreadfully when Santa takes them away on Christmas Eve. (She suffers from S.A.D.: Seasonal Affection Distress.) Frizzy decides she needs to change her job so she doesn’t get so attached to the toys she works on. She starts making something completely different but soon finds that her plan isn’t going to work out exactly as she intended.(FRIZZY, THE S.A.D. ELF is available in e-book, paperback, and audio editions.)
A little follow up verse to this bit from Frizzy, the S.A.D. Elf: S.C. has examined each one of your letters/And scanned the web wishlists of online go-getters./So our task is quite huge, and time’s wasting away./We’d better get busy and fill Santa’s sleigh!
My talk with Jedlie is posted on the ReadingWithYourKids.com podcast. Here's the link: http://traffic.libsyn.com/readingwithyourkids/Dorothea_Jensen.mp3 It was a kick to chat about my Izzy Elf stories. Besides, maybe it will stop the elves from whining that I don't pay enough attention to them.
When I first introduced Frizzy in TIZZY, THE CHRISTMAS SHELF ELF, her character was simple: she styled the Christmas dolls' hair.When I wrote Blizzy, the Worrywart Elf, Blizzy had developed an emotional problem: Her work was to cut and curl all the dolls’ hair/ But the dolls had departed, just hair bits were there,/ And Frizzy was sweeping them up from the floor:/Black, brown, and yellow, and red locks galore./Frizzy looked a bit weepy as she tidied her spot./“I miss them, you know, Blizz, I miss them a lot. My dollies are sweet! I’ll remember their faces/‘Til ones for next season move into their places.” Blizzy's mental state evolved into full blown "Seasonal Affection Distress" by the time I wrote Blizzy, the S.A.D. Elf!"
On a recent visit with my grandsons, we got out the Izzy Elf books, and the two youngest (twins aged 5) suddenly realized that there was no Izzy story with them in it. They really, really want a story of their own. They thought this could be done instantly, but I tried to tell them this will take time. Because of this, I will start focussing on Bizzy's story, which feature's Miles and Henry (said twins). I have been calling it BIZZY, THE KNOW-IT-ALL ELF. I'd like to call it BIZZY, THE BOSSY PANTS ELF, because I like the alliteration. I'm uncertain, however, whether Bossy Pants has become a generally used term or does it still smack of Tina Fey?. Please advise via my e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org. Thanks!
I have spent time lately trying to publish a new edition of this award-winning book so that it can be distributed to bookstores and libraries. I won't bore you with details of why this was necessary, but will just say that CreateSpace itself recommended that I do this. I took this as an opportunity to update Frizzy (and her fellow Izzy Elves' stories. When I submitted Frizzy's tale, however, I kept getting messages that they had serious doubts that I owned the rights to this story. Hmmm. I finally convinced them. Whew. It's been fun re-visiting the Izzy Section of the North Pole. It's been especially refreshing to make such visit in hot, hot July!
I had fun reading the beginning of this story aloud and making a video of it! Check it out at my website, dorotheajensen.com. (There's a link to it somewhere nearby on this very page cleverly labeled "website".) Once you get to the website it's on the page marked "Videos" (another clever label). Enjoy!
We Izzies are starting to reach panic mode/We try not to worry, but find our work load/A bit overwhelming at this time of year:/We just can't believe Christmas Eve is so NEAR!
This is a very simple but heartfelt rhyme: From all of us Izzies/and from Deedy J, too/Here's wishing the merriest Christmas to you! (Huzzah, indeed! Please take a look at the IzzyElfBlog for some fun pix to go with this! http://izzyelfblog.blogspot.com)
This is a very simple but heartfelt rhyme: From all of us Izzies/and from Deedy J, too/Here's wishing the merriest Christmas to you! (Huzzah, indeed! Please take a look at the IzzyElfBlog for some fun pix to go with this! http://izzyelfblog.blogspot.com)
Bizzy thinks he is Santa's Right Hand Man and tries to boss around the rest of the Izzy Elves. To find out if his bossiness works, read on: Bizzy thinks we should do what he tells us, exactly/ But we Izzies ignore all his orders, in fact we/ Most often do just as we like, even so/ We do it in secret so he doesn't know!
Frizzy's friend, Quizzy. is the "Brainiac" Elf, At one point in the story, Frizzy makes her over so she looks like Marilyn Monroe! Anyway, here is a Countdown Verse about Quizzy: Our Quizzy wears eyeglasses shaped like a “Q.”/ (She needs them to see what she makes, it is true.)/ But her brain is much sharper by far than her sight/ And turns out new puzzles and games that delight!
Fizzy is one of the elves who is "madeover" by Frizzy and is NOT happy about it. She is also finding her work rather challenging these days. Here is her Christmas Countdown Verse: Fizzy makes toys that surprise, and it's tough/ To build in the secrets that thrill kids enough./"Kids today," she explains, "know a little too much,/ To be truly surprised by hand-buzzers and such!"
Here's our latest verse for counting down to Christmas Eve. We must admit we filched it from our book trailer, but you must understand we are VERY BUSY up here in the Izzy Elf Section of the North Pole right now. We figured a shortcut might be OK. Once. As the holiday season arrives at your places/ Put smiles of delight on your progeny’s faces./ Just open our stories and read them aloud/They’re perfect for pleasing your family crowd!
Blizzy is one of the Izzy Elves that Frizzy "improves." Here is a Christmas Countdown Verse about her (and her work). Blizzy makes snowglobes with North Poles inside That, when shaken up, contain snowflakes that glide. She says they give children of all earthly lands A bit of "White Christmas" to hold in their hands.
The Izzy Elves from Frizzy's story have written another little verse: Today we will focus on Frizzy a bit. Her new girl-type trucks seem to be a huge hit. So now she is madly a-working away To ready them all to arrive Christmas Day!
Here is the second installment by Frizzy and her friends: We are all quite amused to watch Blizzy the elf, Hang mistletoe bunches up all by herself. And she's hung up so many that she cannot miss: Her Tizzy will give her a mistletoe kiss! To see her picture, visit: http://izzyelfblog.blogspot.com/2015/12/christmas-eve-countdown-2.html
The Izzy Elves have decided to write poems counting down to Christmas. Since poetry doesn't show up in Bubbles very well, please go to the IzzyElfBlog to read the first one. Here is how it begins: ‘Tis twelve days til Christmas and at the North Pole We Izzies are working away, with one goal: To make the right gifts for each child on the list. (We want to make sure not a one has been missed.) Read the rest at: http://izzyelfblog.blogspot.com/2015/12/counting-down-to-christmas-in-rhyme.html
One of my own kids suffers from Seasonal Affective Disorder (or at least that is what we parents thought, based on the yearly dip in his GPA every winter at college.) That is how I became aware of this problem, and decided to give poor Frizzy her own version of it: Seasonal Affection Distress.
This was a fun part to illustrate. The artist who did the pictures for this story suggested I ask my grandsons to draw designs to put on the sides of some of the monster trucks. The four older boys did so, and are very proud to point out which one was done by whom! (Too bad the illustrations can't be included in these book excerpts!)
My family has always been amused by radio and television ads for monster truck events. You know, they usually start out (announced in a very loud voice) SUNDAY SUNDAY SUNDAY! MONSTER TRUCKS IN THE M-U-U-U-D PIT! This is such a source of fun in our family that when our son learned Arabic, he figured out how to do a parody monster truck ad in that language, with exactly the same volume and "intonations". So naturally, when I was trying to decide what was most UNLIKE Frizzy's dollies, toy monster trucks popped into my head.
I know I've already written a bubble about this bit, but I suddenly remembered WHY I came up with the idea of Santa checking out what kids post online. One of my grandsons, when he was only 4 or 5, often talked about posting what he wanted from Santa on web wishlists. I was inspired to write about this from SANTA's point of view.
There's a link to Frizzy's trailer on the home page of my website, www.dorotheajensen.com. Enjoy!
I have recorded audiobooks of the first four of Santa's Izzy Elves stories. Here is the address if you want to listen to an excerpt of Frizzy's tale: https://youtu.be/oxJp32XW0wE
In Frizzy's case, this does NOT mean Seasonal Affective Disorder. It's not the missing daylight hours that make her depressed; it is missing the dollies that she loves.
Lest anyone think that Santa is TOO high tech for reading actual letters that children write to him, please set your minds at rest. He still reads 'em all!
S.C., as the Izzies call him, is always happy to try some new electronic tool. I believe he would highly approve of this Youtube trailer about his elves and their stories! https://youtu.be/VQRVzk2Aydw
In posting excerpts of Frizzy's story here on Bublish, two things happen: 1) The placement of the poetry lines is messed up considerably. 2) None of the wonderful interior illustrations by Shayne Hood can be included. There is not much I can do about #1, but if you want to have a sneak peek at Santa's Izzy Elves in their splendor, please see the blog they write: http://izzyelfblog.blogspot.com/
There are two answers to this question. 1) Clement Moore 2) Dr. Seuss. Obviously, the first is the author of "A Visit from St. Nicholas" and the second is the author of many, many poems, including "And to think that I saw it on Mulberry Street". Both of these poems were my favorites as a child. Somehow by reading them over and over, that anapestic tetrameter rhythm got planted inside my head permanently. Thus, when I started out writing about Santa's Izzy Elves, it seemed natural for me to tell their stories in this meter. It feels so lighthearted, and it bounces along delightfully. At one point, the elves (who have their own blog) were thinking of forming a support group to help them stop thinking in anapestic tetrameter.
This is the 4th in a series of rhyming modern Christmas stories I have written. This is definitely a far cry from writing historical fiction, and I can almost feel that s different part of my brain is engaged when I write verse. When people ask me which kind of writing I enjoy the most, I reply that this is like asking me which of my children is my favorite. These two kinds of work present two kinds of challenges and delights. Frizzy's story won first prize in the children's/YA category of the first ever Red City Review Book Awards. It also is a Santa Choice Award winner. In 2015 it won Honorable Mention at the Holiday Book Festival.
Working Title: A Scalp on the Moon
This Book Is In Development
In 1675, a teenaged boy who has trained his entire life for a career as an actor in Restoration London finds himself accidentally transported to Massachusetts Colony, where he knows the Puritans consider the theater to be a terrible evil. It is a time of great unrest and fear, as the Native American tribes are realizing that the English settlers are an unsettling, permanent and growing presence in their midst. For their part, some of the superstitious colonists insist they keep seeing a scalp on the moon, a portent that something terrible is about to happen. With the outbreak of King Philip’s War this portent might turn out to be all too accurate.
I thought a hair-raising scream would be a far better opening for this story than the lowering of a stage curtain as per the original version. The occasion? The father of the narrator, Gabe, has just accidentally stabbed a fellow actor in the hand during a performance. This has most unexpected and frightening consequences for Gabe and his father.
I actually started writing this book in 1993. In my files from then, I recently found a xeroxed page from the Records of the Court of Assistants of the Massachusetts Bay Colony. As I plan to have part of my story involve a court case, I apparently wrote a snail mail letter to the Massachusetts Judicial Archivist and asked her to send this page to me. Today I went online and downloaded a PDF of the entire book of court records from 1630-1692. It took me about five minutes. Sometimes I feel as if there has been as much change in the last 25 years (in information technology, at least) as there has been since the 17th C. Someone wrote this record down in court with a quill pen nearly 350 years ago and now it's on my laptop computer. Wow.
The family names in my two previous historical novels for young readers (THE RIDDLE OF PENNCROFT FARM and A BUSS FROM LAFAYETTE) are nearly identical. (HARGREAVES in RIDDLE, and HARGRAVES in BUSS.) This was not actually intentional on my part; it had been so long since I read RIDDLE that I'd forgotten the family name I'd used! Both of these spellings are from my family tree: my great-grandfather's birth surname name in England was Hargreaves, but his parents changed it to Hargraves when they came to America in 1870. Now I have at least one young fan who is convinced that my books are about several generations of the same family. Hmm. I'm thinking of making my main character's name in this story a match for the others in order to keep her happy, but I'm not sure yet.
I have started to work on my next historical novel for young readers - not sure if I will aim this at middle school kids or teens quite yet. This will be a kind of homage to my favorite historical novel when I was young, THE WITCH OF BLACKBIRD POND. The working title is A SCALP ON THE MOON, which superstitious Puritan settlers insisted they saw, which portended terrible times ahead. They were right!
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