Wednesday, September 1, 2021

One of these things is not like the other!

My latest book, Liberty-Loving Lafayette, won the Bronze Medal in the Young Adult - Nonfiction category of the 2021 Readers' Favorite book awards today. I am thrilled to get this award, as a glance at the top five winners (below) shows that historical poetry is not what usually wins this category!

Thank you to the judges who realized that this playful little rhyming story for teens is actually NONFICTION!


So here's my cover adorned with its new award!

Woo hoo!

Wednesday, June 30, 2021

Thrills in an Antique Barn!

Last night we went to Beech Hill Farm here in Hopkinton, New Hampshire, for ice cream. While there, I noticed a small barn that was a museum for farm tools. I went inside and found a real riddle hanging on the wall! It was thrilling to see a scene from my historical novel for kids, The Riddle of Penncroft Farm, right there in my very own town!

Here is the scene:

The wooden sides of the barn—or what was left of it—were weathered to a gray that matched the foundation stones. There was a full top story, but because the barn was set into the hill, the ground floor was only about the size of our Minneapolis garage, much to my relief. 

A wide door ran across the lower level. I gave it a shove, and the door creaked open on ancient iron hinges. I entered the dark inside, groping for a light switch as I went. I couldn’t find one.

Swell. How can I clean this place if I can’t see what I’m doing?” I asked, wasting good sarcasm on an empty barn. Moving gingerly along the wall, I touched a large, round, metallic object that felt nothing like a light switch. It clattered to the floor. I slid my foot around until I found it, then carried it across to the door for a closer look. It was a flat metal sieve, covered with cobwebs, red with rust, and bigger than any sieve I’d ever seen.

Perplexed, I murmured, “I’d hate to have to eat any macaroni that was strained in this . . . this . . . whatever it is!”

“’Tis a riddle,” said a voice in my ear. —Chapter 4, The Riddle of Penncroft Farm © 1989  by Dorothea Jensen

Just like Penncroft Farm, the Beech Hill Farm has been owned by the same family since before the American Revolution. Here's info from its website,

"Some of the earliest English settlers in Hopkinton were Aaron and Susanna Kimball, who came from Massachusetts in 1740. Their son, Abraham, was the first English child actually born in Hopkinton. In 1771, the King of England granted Aaron Kimball some land on Beech Hill."

The unexpected treat of spotting this riddle was even better than the ice cream cone I was eating when I discovered it!

Thursday, June 3, 2021

Buffalo'd but Philosophical

I'm philosophical about negative reviews. I really am. Sometimes I am surprised by how philosophical I am about them. It seems unlike me.

I know that people's tastes differ, however, and not everyone will like what I've written. But sometimes I am, well, buffalo'd by what reviewers write and wonder what they were reading. Or if they read it.

Recently I received some evaluations of Liberty-Loving Lafayette: How "America's Favorite Fighting Frenchman" Helped Win Our Independence done by judges for a national book award. Here's what one of them reported:

"Important information concerning the Marquis de Lafayette and the American Revolutionary War is contained in the book but I fear may be lost to readers due to the fact that the information contained is written in prose."


That's what this evaluator wrote.

About a story written entirely in rhyming verse.


All I can say (philosophically) is "Isn't life interesting?" 


Dorothea Jensen

Monday, April 19, 2021

 On Wednesday, May 5, at 2 P.M. there will be a dedication ceremony for a new marker commemorating Major General Lafayette's stop in Hopkinton, New Hampshire on June 27, 1825. This visit was part of the world-famous Revolutionary War hero's Farewell Tour, during which he visited all 24 of then existent states. This was a huge deal, as Lafayette was the only general still alive fifty years after the beginning of the Revolution, and was seen as a living link to the late General Washington and many other Founding Fathers.

Millions of excited Americans came to greet and meet him during the 13 months he traveled through the courntry,  going nearly 6,000 miles by carriage, horseback, riverboat etc. His visit to Hopkinton came five days after a huge reception in Concord, NH, only recently designated the capital of the state. 

Sunday, March 28, 2021

Graphic Review #1

I've been playing around with Canva designing some small graphics featuring blurbs from reviews of my books. Here are a few for Liberty-Loving Lafayette, my unique rhyming history inspired by the Broadway smash hit, Hamilton.

I've never carried a torch before, but am delighted that Booklife thinks I have done so with this book.



Saturday, February 27, 2021

Booklife Liked LLL! Hooray!


I'm so pleased to post this most encouraging review of 
Liberty-Loving Lafayette 
done by Booklife, a subsidiary of Publishers Week.

Lin Manuel-Miranda’s Tony award-winning Hamilton made household names of historical figures audiences previously hadn’t known much about. Jensen carries the torch with her second book for young readers (after the YA novel A Buss From Lafayette) about the hero of the American Revolutionary War. In engaging rhyming verse possibly inspired by the musical, Jensen details how the French marquis wound up in the American colonies and got caught up in the war. She peppers the text with modern slang (“bro”) and French phrases (“mal de mer”) while historic paintings, portraits, maps, and engravings (√Člisabeth Louise Vig√©e Le Brun’s sumptuous study of Marie Antoinette; Emanuel Leutze’s dramatic Washington Rallying the Troops at Monmouth) bring to life the tale’s cast and milieu.

The lighthearted storytelling still underscores the subject’s significance–“Without him we would not have won our Independency,” Jensen writes, rhyming with independency with liberty. However, the balance between historical authenticity, approachable language, and rhyme scheme fidelity can be precarious and sometimes gets lost. The text refers to Lafayette by multiple names (Gilbert, “the marquis”) which can be confusing given the plethora of characters, both British and French, featured in the story. Page layouts and the positioning of the period images often interrupts that most crucial element of rhymed, rhythmic storytelling: the flow.

This narrative is meant to be read aloud—and would be a valuable companion for classrooms and projects—showcasing its enjoyable blend of history and rhythm. Jensen proves scrupulous in keeping the text factual, digging into the political realities behind revolutionaries like George Washington embracing a French aristocrat, and her detailed end notes, offer concise explanations (“The French government feared having a ‘celebrity’ like Lafayette join the fight on the side of the Americans”) that will help alleviate any audience perplexity. Young history lovers and fans will savor this playful rendition of Lafayette’s biography, centered around historical documents and works of art.

Takeaway: Young history buffs will enjoy the rhyming text and historical art in this lively biography of the French hero of the American Revolution.

Great for fans of: Jean Fritz’s Why Not, Lafayette?, Selene Castrovilla’s Revolutionary Friends.

Production grades
Cover: A-
Design and typography: A-
Illustrations: A
Editing: A-
Marketing copy: A

Saturday, January 30, 2021

Sandwiches, Earls, and Chickens

Me at Mappertown House
(Randalls in 1996 Emma)
Chickens are off-screen, unfortunately.

On the same Jane Austen tour of England on which I met Nigel Nicolson (see previous blog post), we also visited Mapperton House, in Dorset, UK.  It has beautiful gardens, and was used as the location for Randalls (where the Westons live) in the 1996 BBC production of Emma.  In reality, it is the home of the Earl and Countess of Sandwich.

Of course, as most of you know, an 18th century Earl of Sandwich, not wanting to take time away from his gambling (card game or whatever) to dine, is reputed to have asked for some meat with bread around it. This  event is supposed to be the origin of the sandwich.

At any rate, we were to have lunch at Mapperton, hostessed by the Countess herself. Unfortunately, she was delayed. We learned eventually that this was due to her train being late coming back from London. The reason for her trip there? When Emma was filmed, a historic portrait of one of the earls, maybe the sandwich guy himself, had been removed from the house, perhaps because it was inappropriate for "Randalls," and stored in a secure "fire-proof" location in London. 

Which had burned down. 

The countess had been thus been visiting the National Portrait Gallery to see if purchasing a replacement for the lost portrait was possible. 

She said a friend of hers had suffered a greater loss. ALL the furnishings had been removed from her house when it was used as a location (for Hartfield? Donwell Abbey?) for the same Emma production.All had also been lost in the fire.

An any rate, while waiting for the countess to arrive, we had ample time to wander about the grounds. In doing so, I noticed some ornate-looking, unusually large chickens.

I proclaimed to our group, "Well! I've seen plenty of chicken sandwiches, but this is the first time I've ever seen a Sandwich chicken."