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.)
Dorothea Jensen is proud to be one of a very few people who has boarded a pirate ship and attacked a Viking vessel manned by real Vikings wearing horns and furs. She was born in Boston, but grew up in Chillicothe, Illinois, site of the Viking adventure. She then earned a BA in English from Carleton College and an MA in Secondary 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 organizations, written a play performed in Noh style, and raised three children. 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 kids studying the American Revolution. Her next novel, A BUSS FROM LAFAYETTE, is set in 1825 in the small town in New Hampshire where she has lived since 1991. 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.
I was most disappointed to learn recently that the shad run at Valley Forge was apochrophal. It is presented in numerous books about the winter of 1777-8 as a true account, and when I wrote The Riddle of Penncroft Farm in the early 1980s, I was confident that it had actually occurred. It wasn't until I read Thomas Fleming's 2015 book, The Hidden History of Valley Forge that I learned the truth. Among other evidence for this, studies of the "middens" at Valley Forge showed very few fish bones. Fleming says: "as Joseph Lee Boyle, former librarian at Valley Forge National Historical Park, has wryly concluded, 'the miracle of the shad run at Valley Forge is just another fish story.' What a blow!
The Riddle of Penncroft Farm
Up the Schuylkill River came the fish, their silvery scales flashing in the sunlight. The men plunged into the water, shouting and laughing, pulling out writhing shad by handfuls, armfuls, and shirtfuls. Even the cavalry was called into action, riding horses back and forth across the shallows to herd the fish into the infantry’s waiting hands.