A Buss from Lafayette

Young Adult - Coming of Age
266 Pages
Reviewed on 03/31/2022
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Author Biography

Dorothea Jensen is proud to be one of very few people who has boarded a pirate ship and attacked a dragon-prowed Viking vessel manned by real, horn-wearing Vikings. She was born in Boston, but grew up in Chillicothe, Illinois, site of the Viking adventure. She earned a BA in English from Carleton College and an MA in Education from 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, written grant proposals for various arts and history non-profits, written one play performed in Noh style, and another celebrating Lafayette's Farewell Tour performed at Old Sturbridge Village.

Her first historical novel for young readers, THE RIDDLE OF PENNCROFT FARM, has been used in classrooms for many years as an enrichment resource for studying the American Revolution. Her second, A BUSS FROM LAFAYETTE, is set during General Lafayette's Farewell Tour of America (1824-5) in the small town in New Hampshire where she has lived since 1991.

In addition, Dorothea writes modern Christmas stories in verse. Modeled on the 19th century classic poem “A Visit from St. Nicholas,” these award-winning illustrated story poems feature the decidedly 21st century Izzy Elves.

During the 2020 pandemic she wrote LIBERTY-LOVING LAFAYETTE: HOW “AMERICA’S FAVORITE FIGHTING FRENCHMAN” HELPED WIN OUR INDEPENDENCE. For this unique work, Dorothea combined her knowledge of history and her delight in versifying to create a short, playful rhyming narrative about Lafayette’s role in our Revolution

    Book Review

Reviewed by Jamie Michele for Readers' Favorite

A Buss from Lafayette by Dorothea Jensen is a historical fiction tale set over the course of a week in the early 19th century, as narrated by a fourteen-year-old girl named Clara Hargraves. She lives in a small town in New Hampshire with her father, her brother Joss, and her pregnant stepmother, Priscilla, who had been Clara and Joss' aunt until their mother died the previous year and their father took her as his wife. Each of the seven parts begins with a journal entry by Clara that blends into the actual events in the subsequent chapters. Most boil down to Clara's resistance to her stepmother's attempts to gentrify her, her chores, what she gets up to in her free time, her hoping to do away with her red hair, her dislike of her brother's friend, and a special visitor who shows her a bit of attention.

A Buss from Lafayette is a cute little story, and Dorothea Jensen has written a fine addition to the young adult historical fiction genre. The quality of writing is lovely and the attention to period detail is excellent and comes across naturally, as opposed to feeling like a lesson. Clara is likable and was almost instantly reminiscent of Laura Ingalls or Anne Shirley, but with traits that make her an individual. I'm not a fan of journal entry books because they feel a bit like cheating, but the way Jensen incorporates them works well here. The first entry is slightly overloaded with information, but those that come after are not, while the innocence of Clara's world - and make no mistake, it is very innocent - is portrayed through her eyes. This is an enjoyable read for the mid-grade to early teen groups because of its light-hearted plot and Clara's age, but also for those of us of a certain age who are looking for a tidy, uncomplicated trip into the sunset of the Georgian era. Recommended.

Heather Stockard

Fourteen-year-old Clara Hargraves has grown up on tales of the Marquis de Lafayette and his bravery, and his coming is the talk of her small New Hampshire town and the country. Clara finds it all very exciting, but she has other things to worry about too. Her stepmother, Prissy, who also happens to be her mother’s sister, is expecting a baby soon, and Clara’s feelings are decidedly mixed. She hasn’t been able to forgive her aunt and father for marrying so soon after her mother’s death. Prissy has taken it upon herself to see that Clara becomes a proper young lady, which does not help their relationship. Clara is also dealing with self-esteem issues regarding her bright red hair, which has been the object of derision by her pretty cousin, and good-natured teasing from her brother’s best friend, Dickon. Clara must come to terms with change and growing up, and a chance encounter with Lafayette helps her in more ways than one.

It’s 1825, more than forty years since the end of the Revolutionary War, and one of its greatest heroes is touring the United States. This provides the background to A Buss from Lafayette by Dorothea Jensen. A Buss from Lafayette is a charming coming-of-age novel. Jensen’s admiration for Lafayette and other Revolutionary War heroes is reflected in the rich historical details and her meticulous research. Clara is a well-written and nuanced character. Her struggles are relatable and her relationships with the other characters are realistically written. This is a great read for any young history lover.