Friday, August 18, 2017

Dorothea Jensen: The Riddle of Penncroft Farm at Valley Forge

Recently, we visited Valley Forge after many years and made a short video of me reading the scene in which Geordie and Sandy arrive there during the winter of 1777-8.

This was the scene that my 10-year-old grandson "chanted" when I asked him what his favorite part of the book was. That really made my day!

(If the video doesn't show up on your device, follow this link to watch it on YouTube!)

Sunday, August 13, 2017

"Bon for America!""

Mr. Towne jumped back into the conversation, telling us how, after Lafayette had been wounded in the leg, he had shouted “Bone for America!” This had puzzled everyone, as the musket ball had not hit Lafayette’s bone, but had passed clean through his leg. “Lafayette then explained that the word he had used was bon, which means good in French,” said Mr. Towne. “He had been saying ‘Good for America!’ Lafayette thought this misunderstanding so funny, he laughed aloud even while his leg was bleeding away, even though it must have pained him considerably! Now, I do not know if this story be true, but it is still a good yarn.” - A Buss from Lafayette © 2016 by Dorothea Jensen 
I based this "Bone for America" story on that related by Captain John Polhemus in his memoir:"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,"

Friday, August 4, 2017

A thrilling visit to Valley Forge!

My husband and I visited Valley
Forge a few weeks ago for the first time in many years. Imagine how thrilled I was to find my first historical novel for kids, The Riddle of Penncroft Farm. for sale in the Encampment Store there!

Several scenes in Riddle are set at Valley Forge, both during the Revolution and in modern times, so it is particularly satisfying to see it on the bookshelf so close to where those scenes occur!

I also managed to make some very short video recordings of me reading bits about Valley Forge from both Riddle  and my new book, A Buss from Lafayette.

Here is the link to one Riddle vid on YouTube here.)

Thursday, August 3, 2017

Baron de Kalb Re-visited!

I had the distinct pleasure recently of chatting at my 50th college reunion with a new friend, Mary Weshinskey, the wife of one of my classmates. I was telling her about my book, A Buss from Lafayette, and she said "I'm actually descended from one of the guys who came over to America with Lafayette."

Of course, I asked who this was, and she replied, "the Baron de Kalb."

How thrilling was that!

She said that his line had ended up with just female descendants, so his name had pretty much died out.

We had great fun establishing a "Friends of the Baron de Kalb" club consisting of the two of us.

Anyway this inspired me to look the Baron up and remind myself who he was and what he did for America.

This Bavarian officer did, indeed, come over on Lafayette's ship, the Victoire, in 1777 in company with the young (19!) marquis.  At first, he was unable to secure an appointment as an officer with the American forces, but Lafayette quickly interceded and he was given the rank major general. He was apparently a very capable soldier and officer, and was disappointed when later, at the battle of Camden, the so-called "hero of Saratoga", General Gates, was given the command. Gate deserted his men in the thick of the battle and galloped away. Or that is the traditional account, anyway.

De Kalb was wounded numerous times at that battle, and despite being treated by British General Cornwallis' personal doctor, died of those wounds. He is buried in Camden. George Washington visiting his grave years later, is reported to have said, "So, there lies the brave de Kalb. The generous stranger, who came from a distant land to fight our battles and to water with his blood the tree of liberty. Would to God he had lived to share its fruits!"

Meanwhile, I found the following letter written by de Kalb which gives an "unbiased" first person view of my hero, Lafayette:

On the whole, I have annoyances to bear, of which you can hardly form a conception. One of them is the mutual jealousy of almost all the French officers, particularly against those of higher rank than the rest. These people think of nothing but their incessant intrigues and backbitings. They hate each other like the bitterest enemies, and endeavor to injure each other wherever an opportunity offers. I have given up their society, and very seldom see them. La Fayette is the sole exception; I always meet him with the same cordiality and the same pleasure. He is an excellent young man, and we are good friends... La Fayette is much liked, he is on the best of terms with Washington. 

Wednesday, August 2, 2017

Coolest Brandywine Battle Map EVER!

I found this animated map online and it is FANTASTIC. It clearly shows the movements of the British troops crossing Brandywine Creek on fords unknown to Washington.

Both of my historical novels for young readers, The Riddle of Penncroft Farm and A Buss from Lafayette, have sections about the Battle of Brandywine, which was the biggest and longest land battle of the American Revolution.

Below is a screen shot of the beginning of the day, September 11, 1777. Note that I went to Backgrounds and Layers and selected 1777 base, Fords, historic structures, and division labels.

Here is the link to check it out for yourself:


Today I am reviewing a new historical novel for children, At the Dawn of Legend: Guinevere Book Two, by Cheryl Carpinello. Like me, Cheryl is a former teacher who understands the importance of hooking kids on history through fiction.

The history in this story is a long way from the American history that inspires my writing, but it hooked me due to my own interest in the Arthurian legend because of the musical, "Camelot." I was fourteen when it came out on Broadway. This was the perfect age to fall madly in love with the characters (not to mention Julie Andrews, Richard Burton, and Robert Goulet) which, of course, I did. Needless to say, it was a huge disappointment when the film was made years later, and didn't include any of these gifted actors!

I must insert here that I saw the movie when I was in the Peace Corps in Brazil, which did not have a tradition of musical theater. Most of the audience went to "Camelot" thinking they would be seeing a "spaghetti western" (like "The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly") because Lancelot was played by Franco Nero, a star in that popular genre. Therefore, when Franco opened his mouth and sang (or lip synced) "C'est Moi", half the audience stood up, shouted "horrĂ­vel" (horrible) and stomped out of the theater. The rest left soon after that. I must admit that I felt like doing the same.

At any rate, I enjoyed reading Cheryl's story of Guinevere as a 15-year-old girl. (I have not read the first book, On the Eve of Legend, when Guinevere was younger still.) She is depicted as courageous, impulsive, and loyal to her best friend, 11-year-old Cedwyn, son of the woman who raised her after the death of her mother. It was very satisfying to see the young Guinevere come to life on the page, and I look forward to reading more of her "backstory" in Cheryl's books.  There are dangers and adventures (not to mention unicorns) galore in this book, and I think young readers, especially girls, would find this story quite appealing

Guinevere Dawn o
f Legend Cover 
FINAL Apple & B&N 

Title: Guinevere: At the Dawn of Legend Book Two
Author: Cheryl Carpinello
Publisher: Beyond Today Educator 
Publication Date: June 21, 2017 
Number of Pages: 121 Genre: Children's Historical Fiction 

“ Think before acting, ” her father always warned. But Princess Guinevere is ruled by her heart. Her betrothal to King Arthur has not changed this. 

When Guinevere and Cedwyn’s latest adventure takes a dangerous turn, they find themselves embroiled in a life-or-death struggle as foretold by Merlyn’s Goddess of the Stones. 

Renegades — foiled in their attempt to kidnap the princess — steal the children of Cadbury Castle to sell as slaves. Guinevere and Cedwyn vow to rescue the children, but a miscalculation puts them all in more danger. The plan quickly unravels, and Guinevere ’ s impassioned decisions come crashing down as Cedwyn chooses to turn his dream of becoming a knight into reality. Will their courage be strong enough to survive, or will one make the ultimate sacrifice?

Links to Cheryl's Online Information: