Dorothea Jensen

Children's Books, Education & Reference

Author Profile

Dorothea  Jensen

Dorothea Jensen was born in Boston, Massachusetts, and grew up in Chillicothe, Illinois. She majored in English at Carleton College and earned an MA in Secondary Education at the University of New Mexico. She has served as a Peace Corps Volunteer in South America, taught middle and high school English, tutored refugees in ESL, and written grant proposals for various arts organizations Her first historical novel for young readers, THE RIDDLE OF PENNCROFT FARM, was named an IRA Teachers' Choice Selection soon after publication. It has been used as an enrichment resource in classrooms all over the U.S. for many years. Dorothea's second such novel, A BUSS FROM LAFAYETTE, is set in 1825 in the small town in New Hampshire where she has lived since 1991. It has won a number of awards, detailed in its book description on this site. Dorothea is working on a new story set in 17th century Massachusetts called A SCALP ON THE MOON. Dorothea also writes modern Christmas stories in verse. Modeled on the 19th century classic poem, "A Visit from St. Nicholas" these award-winning Santa's Izzy Elves story poems feature decidedly 21st century elves savvy in modern technology.


A Buss from Lafayette

Children's Books

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?

Book Bubbles from A Buss from Lafayette

Pounding Sugar

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 website.

Rhyming History: Gloucester

"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.

Lafayette's First Command

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:

Hi Tech Kitchen Circa 1825

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

Riding Aside

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 on the pix and videos page.)

Bogeyman Dr. Flagg

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.

Inspiration from the Stage

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."

Mean Girls, 1825!

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?

Rock Star Status

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 (on the pictures and videos page). It was a huge mob!

Lucy Locket's Lost Pocket

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, (on the pictures and videos page), and on (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.

Charm Offensive

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!

New Short Video!

I just posted a VERY short video (only 15 seconds or so) introducing this story on my website, (I think there is a direct link to it near where you are reading this.) I hope you like it!

Re-visiting a stop on the Farewell Tour

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:

Rhyming History: Gloucester

"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.

Gloucester #2: Action

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: 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.)

Friends in High Places

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.

Free EZ Pass for Nation's Guest

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!

Time Traveling

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!)

Tasting History

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.)

School Corporal Punishment

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!

Birthday? No Biggie.

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!

Attire can tell a story, too!

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,, 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!)

False Claims are Nothing New!

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.

One Origin of this Story!

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”.

Bubbles Redux

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!

A Buss From Lafayette Teacher’s Guide

Education & Reference

"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.

Book Bubbles from A Buss From Lafayette Teacher’s Guide

Woo hoo! Possible Breakthrough

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!

Historical Fact vs Fiction

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.)

Whatever his reasons, he made a huge difference!

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:

Surprising Spanish Support!

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:

Video Visits (Gratis)

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 if you would like to set up such a video visit. (Schedule permitting, of course!)

Downloadable Handouts

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.

Pointing Out a POV

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!

America's Favorite Fighting Frenchman!

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

Putting Old Skills to Work

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.

The Riddle of Penncroft Farm

Children's Books

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.)

Book Bubbles from The Riddle of Penncroft Farm

Drummer Boy "Regalia"

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!

Baron von Steuben

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!

A Valentine of Sorts

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!

Hmm. Maybe I will. . .

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!

Runaway Wagon!

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!

Charles Willson Peale

To find out more about Peale, go to Grateful American Kids website, ( ) 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.

More Settling

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 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.

Cider/Perry Press

I happened across an antique cider press last fall at Old Sturbridge Village. To see what it looked like, go to 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. : )

Aha! Bull-eye!

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!

A Big Surprise in the Reel

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 (via website link on this page), or (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!

Pasties and Squash RECIPE!

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) 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.

True Confession!

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.

Why RIDDLE is in the 1st Person

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

Reading at Valley Forge

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:

All Settled In!

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:

A short audio answer!

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:

So. Exciting.

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!):

21st C. Riddle Visit!

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.

A Thrilling Discovery!

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:

Secret (?) Cupboard

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


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:

Nail Soup

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.)

More Fun with Ancestors

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.

Learning at Valley Forge

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!)

Musical "Reveal"

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.

Fishing in February

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.)

Covered Bridges

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.

Joking at Valley Forge

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.

Chanting at Valley Forge

This kind of chanting apparently really did happen at Valley Forge. When I learned about this, it seemed to belong in my story!

Colonial Day Inspiration

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.

An Effective Way to Show Contempt for America

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.

Cup and Ball

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.)

20th Century City Tavern Scene

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!

City Tavern

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.

Meeting in a Covered Bridge

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!

The Original Penncroft Farm

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.)

Historical Fiction Squared

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:

Occupied Philadelphia

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!)

Not a Sure Thing

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.

Fun with Antique Words

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!

And here's the payoff...

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.

An Artifact to be Found

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!

Straight out of History!

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!

Having fun with history!

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!

Another true incident. . .

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!

21st Century Tech: Riddle Trailer!

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: Enjoy!

A True Story with a Small Addition...

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.

Lars's Mom: As Cool as an Engineer?

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:

Looking the Part

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:


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.

A Missing Piece

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!

What's in a name?

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:

Author's Message??

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:

My Prize-Winning Chapter

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!

Stake-and-Rider Fence

I have posted a picture of a "stake-and-rider" fence on my blog. Take a look!

Mrs. Hettrick

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:

Nemo and the Nautilus

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.

Drinkable Squash!

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!

Antique Apples

"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!

Another "Real Life" Incident

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. : )

Rolling Uphill??

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!)

Another Reversal

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.

Aunt Cass

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.

Original Idea

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!

Blizzy, the Worrywart Elf

Children's Books

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!

Book Bubbles from Blizzy, the Worrywart Elf

Reading Blizzy Aloud!

I had fun reading the beginning of this story aloud and making a video of it! Check it out at my website, (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!

Seasonal Affection Distress

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 (to which there is a link somewhere close by on this page.)

View Through the Elfascope

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, (There should be a link to that site VERY CLOSE BY.)

Mistletoe Kissing

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!

How can Santa eat all those cookies??

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 (There should be a link to it very nearby - usually to the left of this bubble!)

Countdown Verse about Blizzy

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.

Who makes snow globes? Blizzy, of course!

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.

Tizzy, the Christmas Shelf Elf

Children's Books

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?

Book Bubbles from Tizzy, the Christmas Shelf Elf

An Online Elf Chat

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 (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.

Reading Tizzy Aloud!

I had fun reading the beginning of this story aloud and making a video of it! Check it out at my website, (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!

A Choo Choo Solution??

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,

Meet the Izzies!

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,, 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.)

Izzy Elf Tactfulness

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".

AKA Aurora Borealis!

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.

Elf Naming

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, (Look for the link, probably to the left.)

Echoes of Clement Moore

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

This is SO 20th C!

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!

Why I wrote about a trapped elf. . .

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!

Santa's Izzy Elves #1!

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.

Dizzy, the Stowaway Elf

Children's Books

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!

Book Bubbles from Dizzy, the Stowaway Elf

Reading Dizzy Aloud!

I had fun reading the beginning of this story aloud and making a video of it! Check it out at my website, (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!

Dizzy's Colleague, Fizzy

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!"

Christmas Countdown #3

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.)

Christmas Countdown #2

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 (the link, cleverly labelled WEBSITE) is on this page, so it's easy-peasy to beam over to visit!

Christmas Countdown #1!

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

Dizzy-fied Grandboys!

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:

Countdown Verse 12/10

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!

Christmas Countdown #1

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.

Christmas Countdown # 12! (Yikes)

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.

CC#11: A Bit of Bragging

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!

#7: Dizzy's Friend, Whizzy

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.

Countdown Verse #4

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!)

Dizzy's Counting Down, Too!

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:

Real Life Stuart

To watch the real-life Stuart talk about taking a ride in Santa's sleigh, check out this little video!

Santa's Older-Type Brain

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!

No Frills Flight

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!

Dizzy Audiobook Excerpt

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 (Links also available on my website,

Inspiration from more than a half century ago!

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!

Watch Dizzy's Trailer!

I finally made a trailer for Dizzy's story. There is a link to it on the home page of my website, Enjoy!

Grandsons Galore!

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:

Frizzy, the S.A.D. Elf

Children's Books

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.)

Book Bubbles from Frizzy, the S.A.D. Elf

It's Bizzy's Turn!

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: Thanks!

Hoorah for Frizzy!

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!

Reading Frizzy Aloud!

I had fun reading the beginning of this story aloud and making a video of it! Check it out at my website, (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!

Countdown Verse 12/13

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!

Christmas Countdown 12/2

Deedy conferred with our boss late last night./To rev up her brain so she's ready to write./ (Of course, we elves help her to know what to say/In these "counting down" verses until Christmas day.)

CC #13: Our Big Finish!

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!

Christmas Countdown #10

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!

Christmas Countdown #9: Quizzy

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!

Christmas Countdown #8: Fizzy

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!"

Christmas Countdown #6

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!

Christmas Countdown #5

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.

Christmas Countdown #3

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!

Christmas Countdown #2

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:

Poetic Advent Calendar 1

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:

S.A.D. Revisited

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.

Toy Proving Ground

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!)

Why Monster Trucks?

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.

Why I made Santa High Tech. . .

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.

Watch Frizzy's Trailer!

There's a link to Frizzy's trailer on the home page of my website, Enjoy!

A Frizzy Audio Excerpt

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:

What does S.A.D. Mean, Anyway??

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.

High Tech Santa Still Traditional

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!

Santa Claus is also high tech!

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!

Not QUITE the same...

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:

Why Anapestic Tetrameter??

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.

My Split Authorial Personality!

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.

Dorothea  Jensen

Working Title: A Scalp on the Moon

This Book Is In Development

A Scalp on the Moon

Children's Books

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.

Rough-Cut Book Bubbles from A Scalp on the Moon

New Opening

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.

17th C. PDF

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.

A Family Saga?

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.

My New Story Begins

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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