Monday, December 24, 2018

My Spirits of Christmas Past

There are two Christmas carols that evoke in me what Brazilians call saudade (sow-da-gee): a nostalgic yearning for another time, place, or person.  The reason for this was a momentous occurrence in my life as a child: my parents gave a small portable child-workable record player to my older brother, Paul, and me. We were probably about five and four years old, respectively. For the first time ever, we were able to play music by ourselves!  Today's kids, with digital music players of all sorts available to them,  could probably not even imagine the thrill this was for Paul and me.

Of course, later we had children's records to play, but the first one I remember playing on our exotic new device had a grand total of two songs on it, one on each side. These were instrumental versions of "Masters in this Hall" and "March of the Kings." We played this record over and over, marching around and feeling very proud to be in control of this music ourselves.

Here are "modern" recordings of them both (Of course, there was no singing on our record, let alone in French). I've included some of the lyrics here, just to remind you what they were about.

This great day, I met upon the way
The kings of east as they came riding proudly,
This great day, I met upon the way
The kings of east in all their fine array.
The gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh,
Were guarded close by a band of sturdy warriors,
Their swords, their shields, and their bucklers bright
Agleam and sparkling in the morning light.

Here is the other carol, "Masters in this Hall"

Masters in this hall Hear ye news today, Brought from overseas And ever you I pray: Noel, noel, noel, Sing we noel clear! Holpen all the folk on earth Born the Son of God so dear!

Of course, more than sixty years later, that record is no longer in existence, and, unfortunately, neither is my brother. These songs are still vividly recorded in my head, however. Whenever I hear them, I feel a little burst of saudade, memory, and nostalgia, feeling proud of being "grown up" enough to play music with my big brother Paul, and missing him terribly.

Wednesday, December 12, 2018

2018 Christmas Countdown #1: Whizzy

2018 Christmas Countdown #1: Whizzy

Just to remind you, Whizzy is the elf who wraps all the presents that the other Izzies make. Unfortunately, this means he can't even start his work until all of his colleagues have finished theirs!

(Notice that his symbol is a whirlwind.)

Poor Whizzy cannot get ahead of the game
His problem each Christmas is always the same:
He can't finish his wrapping until Christmas Eve
(Just minutes before Santa's ready to leave.)
And why, you may ask, is there such a delay
For Whiz to wrap presents to pack in the sleigh?
It's because he must wait until each Izzy Elf
Is done before he can start working himself!

Friday, October 12, 2018

The Professor, the "Heroine", the Villain, and the Bookshop!

When I was a student at Carleton College, I took a Jane Austen seminar.  In the summer before school started, everyone in the class received a letter from the professor, Owen Jenkins. He instructed us to order a complete set of Jane Austen's novels from Blackwell's Bookshop in Oxford, England. 

I remember being thrilled at the opportunity to buy books from this venerable, respected, academic British bookstore. It seemed very exotic to do so. My Jane Austen books arrived, and I have them still.

I'd like to be able to report that I aced the seminar, but I didn't quite. One reason? Mr. Jenkins specialized in sarcasm, which terrified me and rendered me speechless. This had NEVER happened to me before.

The only positive comment I ever received from him was when I showed up early to class wearing my hair up  and a wool dress. He told me I looked like a Jane Austen heroine. Hmmm. Here's a picture of me at that time in that exact same getup, 54 years ago! Yikes. (Despite his odd compliment to me, I eventually named my "villain" in The Riddle of Penncroft Farm, Mr. Owens, after him. )

Anyway, when my husband and I went to Oxford many years later, we made a point of visiting Blackwell's, and it was as venerable as I had envisioned.

Anyway, imagine how thrilling it was for me to find the following on the Blackwell's website recently:

They also carried my Izzy Elf books, but for some reason did not display the cover art for those. No matter, my Izzies have made the big time, as far as I am concerned! I'm sure they are all delighted to find themselves available through such a venerable, respected, academic British bookshop! 

How I wish I could tell Mr. Jenkins!

Monday, September 10, 2018

Another Buss from Lafayette! (Woo hoo!)

On Saturday, September 1, I participated in a commemoration of General Lafayette's September, 1824,visit to Charlton, Massachusetts during his Farewell Tour. For this, I wore a 1820s style costume created by Gay Bean, a mob cap, and a new bonnet. 

This event, sponsored by the American Friends of Lafayette and the Charlton Historical Society, was great fun.  I had the honor of speaking about how Lafayette was received during his Farewell Tour.  Here I am making what appears to be a serious point about all of this.

I decided that part of my purpose in speaking was revving up the crowd so that they would welcome Lafayette with the proper vocal enthusiasm, so I helped them practice cheering. That was the cue for the man himself to appear.

Happily, I was then able to ask the general, as enacted by Ben Goldman, to buss (kiss) me on the cheek, in honor of the title of my historical novel for young readers, A Buss from Lafayette. And he did!

Of course, in my story, a young lady is bussed by an old gentleman, the reverse of the situation last Saturday, but it was great fun, anyway. 

Wednesday, August 29, 2018

Come meet Lafayette!

On Saturday, September 1, I will be part of a commemoration of Lafayette's 1824 visit to the Rider Tavern, 255 Stafford Street, Charlton, MA! (I am hoping for a cooler day than today, as I will be wearing an 1825-style dress, rather than shorts. I'm sure those wearing Revolutionary War uniforms would also appreciate lower temperatures.)

Tours of the historic  building will be given from 1:30 until 3, when the program during which I will be speaking begins. It will culminate with the arrival of Lafayette himself, played by professional enactor, Ben Goldman. Presented by the Charlton Historical Society and the American Friends of Lafayette, admission is free. 

Thursday, August 16, 2018

Lafayette's First Command: Gloucester #2

This popped up on the internet:

Thousands of drivers pass by the Kings Highway spot where Haddon Heights, Audubon and Mount Ephraim converge at Haddon Lake Park, oblivious to the Revolutionary War battle that occurred there.  That history involves a victory by one of the most famous generals of the war, the Marquis de Lafayette, during a battle overlooked by most history textbooks: the Battle of Gloucester, which was fought across six towns from Gloucester City and Bellmawr to Haddonfield in what is now known as Camden County.

There are park and town signs but no historical markers today at the two Haddon Lake Park entrances on both sides of Kings Highway. It was there and in an area extending a few hundred yards to the east that the Frenchman Lafayette scored a skirmish victory on Nov. 25, 1777, in the midst of the two day Battle of Gloucester that led to his full commission in the Continental Army under Gen. George Washington. - Carol Comegno, Cherry Hill Courier-Post Published July 15, 2018 

I refer to this battle that was so important to the young Frenchman in A Buss from Lafayette this way:

I laughed along with the men, then asked shyly: “I still do not understand why Lafayette is thought to be such a hero, sir. I heard he won no big battles.” 

The veteran shrugged. “That is true enough, my girl, but he did very well when he was finally given men to command.” 

I listened closely as the man explained that Lafayette’s actions at Brandywine had so impressed General Nathanael Greene that had he sent the young Frenchman on a reconnaissance mission commanding a few hundred men. Lafayette had led them on a surprise attack on some Hessians near Gloucester, in the Jerseys. Though outnumbered, it was said that Lafayette and his men “fought like demons,” and it was not until the British commander, Cornwallis, sent out some grenadiers from the main camp that Lafayette withdrew. 

The stranger took another gulp of the rum. “Greene said afterwards that Lafayette ‘seemed to search for danger.’ High praise indeed for such a young man in his first command.” Mr. Towne explained that after that, Washington put Lafayette in command of a division, so he was no longer a major general without any troops.

Jensen, Dorothea. A Buss from Lafayette (pp. 47-48). Boutique of Quality Book Publishing, Inc.. Kindle Edition. 

And here is my rhyming version:

Greene put him in command to watch Cornwallis' armed forces
To see how many men there were, and armaments, and horses.
Near Gloucester, in the Jerseys, lurked a Hessian company
Outnumbered, the Marquis attacked, and won a victory.
 Greene said he "searched for danger", when the facts of this were known.
And Lafayette was given a division of his own.

Wednesday, August 8, 2018

What did drummer boys wear in the Revolution?

This article caught my eye, as it gives some details about what drummer boy "regalia" would have been like.

Here's what it says about drummer boy uniforms:

Trying to outfit each soldier with the same uniform was a hard task at the beginning of the war. States that assembled men to fight may have just worn what they had available until the colonies got the money and materials to get uniforms to all soldiers. Once this happened, musicians would wear the opposite colored coat that a fighting soldier would wear. If a continental soldier fighting in the war had a blue coat with red cuffs, a musician would wear a red coat with blue cuffs. They did this so that they could be easily found by a commanding officer and on the battlefield, it told the enemy that they were not carrying any weapons and were not a threat

I didn't actually know this when I wrote about drummer boys in The Riddle of Penncroft Farm, many years ago!

“We need drummer boys, Geordie. Join us, as Owens here has done.” He threw these words over his shoulder as he strode from the room. Jealously, I glanced at Owens. How much I wanted to take up the drum—and how impossible that I do so!

 * * *

When the applesauce was done, I started into the hut with the kettle. Just then, a shadowy form appeared behind me. “Geordie?” “Aye?” I was so startled, I nearly dropped the kettle “I’ve been ordered to show you about.” This time it was my jaw that nearly dropped to the floor. It was Ned Owens, still as pudgy as ever, though now dressed in the full regalia of a drummer boy. His nose wrinkled in disdain at the smell of sickness and smoke permeating the hospital hut. His disdain gave me back my tongue. “Ned Owens. How is it you look so stout in the midst of this near starvation?” “Let’s just say I know which side my bread is buttered on.”

Jensen, Dorothea. The Riddle of Penncroft Farm (Great Episodes)  Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. Kindle Edition. 

Monday, June 4, 2018

Giveaway: Buss Audiobook!

I am giving away one download of my audiobook of A Buss from Lafayette on June 16.
(This is a nearly $20 value.) Rafflecopter is running this for me, and will be doing the random "drawing".

Click on the following link to sign up for a chance to win! (You sign in with your e-mail address, then click something like "join A Buss from Lafayette mailing list", then click enter.)

A Rafflecopter Audiobook Giveaway

The Izzy Elves want me to put the link here for buying their audiobooks, too. I'll do it just to minimize whining.

Here's the link for those!

Friday, May 25, 2018

Rats! My Buss Bubbles have Burst!

For the last two and a half years, I have been writing interesting bits about A Buss from Lafayette on the website, It has been great fun, thinking and writing about the source of my ideas as I wrote the story, or giving more background information about subjects that come up in the book. I believe I wrote several hundred of these "Book Bubbles". Unfortunately, I did not back up what I wrote, believing it as safely stowed on

In April, I had reached 125,125 hits. Just before everything disappeared (!), I saw that my total had hit just under 130,000 hits.

Here's what the total is now:

The people at Bublish say this has never happened before. I was editing the book description, to let people know that the audiobook of A Buss from Lafayette is now available. As I was typing, the screen, the book itself, all its bubbles and something like 70,000 hits disappeared.

I am not happy. And I am feeling really stupid for not making copies of all the bubbles.

Oh, well.

That's the way the Bubbles burst!



Proclaiming Lafayette Day (in Massachusetts)

Recently I had the honor to read the official proclamation issued by Governor Baker of Massachusetts declaring Lafayette day in that commonwealth. This was during the annual Lafayette Day meeting of the Massachusetts Lafayette Society, at the Atheneum in Boston.

Here is am with the dignitaries. (I'm on the left end of the table.)

(If you are watching on a mobile device and cannot view this, check it out here on Youtube.)

Thursday, May 17, 2018

The Riddle of Penncroft Farm: Decade-Old Deletions!

My first historical novel for young readers, The Riddle of Penncroft Farm, was published by Harcourt, Brace, Jovanovich in 1989 and has been in print ever since. Yesterday, I went by an apple orchard in bloom up on top of the hill where I live in New Hampshire. "Ah," thought I, this reminds me of the passage in Riddle in which Aunt Cass talks about how beautiful it was when the apple trees were blossoming on Penncroft Farm, and how wonderful it smelled.

Because of this, I stopped to take a movie of the scene, which is below:

When I got back home, I got out Riddle to find the descriptive passage I was thinking of.
You may imagine my surprise when I discovered that it is not in the book! The HBJ editor must have removed it when I wasn't looking! Here is all that's left:

 (Aunt Cass is showing Lars around Penncroft Farm)

"Here's the orchard. It doesn’t look like much now, but generations back it was a working orchard with more than a thousand fruit trees— apples and pears and peaches.” 

“Are these Seek-no-further apple trees?” I asked. Aunt Cass sighed. “No, those all died and were hopped up for firewood years ago."      -The Riddle of Penncroft Farm © 1989 by Dorothea Jensen

I cannot believe that I didn't notice this was gone for almost thirty years. Oh well. Enjoy the video and imagine Aunt Cass describing it to Lars.

Sunday, April 8, 2018


For more than twenty years, I have been reading (and writing) about General Lafayette's life, role in the American Revolution, and Farewell Tour of 1824-5. (In preparation for writing A BUSS FROM LAFAYETTE, of course.)

Up until now, I have never found any indication that any of my ancestors went to see him when he came through Massachusetts in 1924 or 1825. Most of my ancestors on my father's side lived near Worcester. Lafayette did make a stop there, so I figured some of them might have been around for that visit.

However, recently I was nosing around the internet looking for information regarding Lafayette's visit to Sturbridge, Massachusetts, in preparation for writing a play. Among the articles that turned up in my search was the following:

 Here are some snippets from that article:

But wait, wait, there's more!

When I read this, I remembered that one of my direct ancestors was named John Wesson Johnson, born in 1822.  Hmmm, I thought. I checked to see if I might therefore be related to this guy Silas Wesson.

The answer?? Yup, I am! 

John Wesson Johnson's mother was Jemima D. Wesson, born in 1794. She and her husband, John Johnson (the Johnsons don't seem to have been very imaginative about names), lived not far from Westborough, where the Wesson Tavern was. The Silas Wesson who owned this establishment was her father's younger brother.

I really, really hope that this means she and/or her husband or son, went to meet Lafayette that day. The son, John Wesson Johnson, was only a toddler at the time, but Lafayette did routinely kiss babies, so maybe I have a familial "buss" from Lafayette in my own family tree.

On the other hand, I can find no mention of this stop by Lafayette in any of the accounts I can find of his journey.

Also, if you read the whole article linked above, you will see some pooh poohing of the whole thing included there, as well.

I choose to believe it, just because I want to. I'll keep searching for proof of "disproof" and keep you posted.  

Wish me luck!

Proud Descendant of a Person who Possibly Met Lafayette

Monday, March 5, 2018

Non-Electronic (but Sticky) Fun for Kids

I'm not a writer who is much given to metaphors and similes. However, when I wanted to convey the experience of walking a mile uphill on a very hot day, pulling taffy popped into my head.

“Unfortunately, that provoking boy was right: I could not get onto Feather by myself on the public road wearing a dress and pantalettes, and I did have to trudge all the way home. It seemed to me that the boiling white sun stretched the distance from the village to my home like hot taffy.” - A BUSS FROM LAFAYETTE © 2016 by Dorothea Jensen

I am sure that the reason I thought about taffy being very hot and stretchy was from reading Laura Ingalls Wilder 65 years ago.

"In the kitchen Eliza Jane and Royal were arguing about candy. Royal wanted some, but Eliza Jane said that candy-pulls were only for winter evenings. .Alice said she knew how to make candy. Eliza Jane wouldn't do it, but Alice mixed sugar and molasses and water, and oiled them; then she poured the candy on buttered platters and set it on the porch to cool They rolled up their sleeves and buttered their hands, ready to pull it. . ,Then they all pulled candy. They pulled it into long strands, and doubled the strands, and pulled again. . .It was very sticky. It stuck to their fingers and their faces, somehow it got in their hair and stuck. -  Laura Ingalls Wilder, Farmer Boy
 Anyway, below is a link to a recipe for old fashioned taffy. 

It's guaranteed to get your kids away from electronic gizmos for awhile, and it is lots of fun to do!

Wednesday, January 24, 2018

Commissioning Charles Willson Peale to Paint my Characters!

“It is quaint,” Mom said. “But that’s not the only quaint thing around. Wait until you see your bed— the one my brother used to sleep in at Penncroft. It has a canopy.” 

“A can o’ pee? You mean this place doesn’t have bathrooms?” 

Mom shook her finger at me. “You know very well what I mean, Lars. A canopy over the bed, not under it!”

 “It better not have ruffles,” I protested. “

Oh, don’t worry,” she said. “As canopies go, it’s not a bit frilly. It was masculine enough for your ancestor George to sleep under. Besides, George himself is hanging in your room. So’s his wife.” 

“H-h-h-hanging . .  . ,” I stuttered, every horror movie I’d ever seen replaying before my eyes. 

“She’s only teasing you, Lars,” Dad said. “It’s a portrait of the old boy by Charles Willson Peale, who painted most of the Revolution big shots, like Washington and Franklin. Well, here we are!” 

-The Riddle of Penncroft Farm © 1989 by Dorothea Jensen

Grateful American Kids website has posted an terrific article about Charles Willson Peale.  It starts out 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.

Read the rest of this article here:  Charles Willson Peale

Sometimes Stumbling on Something Unexpected is THE BEST!

I was wandering around the Metropolitan Museum of Art In NYC recently and ended up in the "Visible Storage" display. That's where I came across a portrait of General Lafayette done by Rembrandt Peale, son of the artist Charles Willson Peale. (Peale named several of his children - several of whom became skilled artists - after famous painters: Rembrandt Raphaelle, Sofonisba Anguissola, Rubens, Angelica Kauffman, and Titian.)

Rembrandt Peale painted this portrait of Lafayette during his Farewell Tour of 1824-5. Needless to say, as I have written a entire historical novel (A Buss from Lafayette) for young readers about this tour, I was delighted to stumble across this picture! I have been reading and writing about this man for the last twenty years, so this was like accidentally meeting an old friend!

Here is a better view of the picture.


 Here is what the Met website has to say about this portrait:

Marie Joseph Paul Yves Roche Gilbert du Motier, Marquis de Lafayette (1757–1834), is most vividly remembered for the role he played in the American Revolution. For his service, he was awarded membership in the Society of the Cincinnati. He returned to the United States in 1784, when he was honored by his former war associates and was awarded an honorary degree of Doctor of Laws by Harvard University. An invitation from Congress and President James Monroe brought him to the United States again in 1824, and for more than a year his triumphal tour provoked public demonstrations such as no American hero had ever experienced. Peale's portrait was apparently painted from life in 1825 at the height of Lafayette's fame. The porthole format and piercing heroic gaze are hallmarks of Peale's style and appear as well in his many depictions of George Washington.

Monday, January 15, 2018

She probably COULD cause a toothache!

Goody Two Shoes

I liked everything about school, right down to the sound of the pencils scritching on our slate tablets. Most of all, however, I loved hearing the teacher read stories and fairy tales to us aloud. Even the m – ore youthful fare read aloud in the classroom seemed to transport me right out of Hopkinton and into more exciting times and places. Not all the stories the teachers read had been so enjoyable, however. One in particular, a sickening story named Goody Two Shoes, had a heroine so sweet and, yes, so extraordinarily good that she could give real girls the toothache faster than the hard peppermint candy in Mr. Towne’s glass jars. 

Goody Two Shoes was probably just the sort of person my stepmother wished me to be: the kind of person my cousin Hetty pretended to be when adults were around. “Hetty is actually more ‘Goody Two-Faced,’” I murmured to no one in particular, turning my mind to the puzzle of why Hetty was so mean to me now.
-A Buss from Lafayette © 2016 by Dorothea Jensen

Yup, old Goody was sweet, all right. If you want to read the original story (it’s very short), follow this link for two different versions. (I’m sure that Clara’s teacher read the one published in 1820, btw.)

Goody Two Shoes

Goody Two Shoes was originally published in 1765. The author was anonymous, but was rumored to be Oliver Goldsmith. The title came to be used to signify someone who was a “goody goody” – the type of child who not only ALWAYS behaved the right way, but also tattled on those others who did not.
Goody Two Shoes was  re-published many times over the years. Usually the illustrations were re-done to reflect current clothing fashions. Here’s what Margery Meanwell (AKA Goody Two Shoes) looked like at various times:




Tuesday, January 9, 2018

I'm not ignoring my elves, either!

So just before we took down our Christmas tree, I took the opportunity to make short videos of myself reading the opening of all four of my Izzy elf stories.

Here's the first one: Tizzy, the Christmas Shelf Elf.

I actually wrote this MANY years ago (1991 to be exact) and entitled it Elf on the Shelf. You may imagine my dismay when I decided to publish it more than twenty years later and discovered someone had nicked that title!

You may also imagine my dismay when someone bought this book thinking it was Elf on the Shelf and then wrote a scathing review claiming it was a “knock off” " of that story, and that he found the story "impossible to read."

Hmmm. How did I knock off something produced YEARS after I wrote this?

Can't please everyone.

Anyway, enjoy listening to the beginning of this "knocked off", "unreadable" story in verse!

(BTW, this is available as a paperback, e-book, and audiobook right here.)


In the Works: An Audiobook of A Buss From Lafayette

Sometimes a little kiss can change everything - especially a little kiss from a world-famous hero of the America Revolution!

The other day I started recording the audio version of my historical novel for young readers, A Buss From Lafayette! I decided to document this beginning  by simultaneously making a video version of what I was doing. It was so much fun that I think I might have the video camera running while I record the rest of it. I could then post the occasional video as I go along.

The only downside??? This means I:

1) can't wear my PJs during recording sessions,

2) I have to comb my hair early in the day

3) I have to put on make up every day (not something I enjoy doing but it is nice to have my features actually show up onscreen)

Hmmm. Can I manage to do this every morning??

We'll see.