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 came across these jokes made by the soldiers during the terrible winter of 1777-8 at Valley Forge and put them into my story. It seemed to me that these were an excellent example of how soldiers and other Americans often use humor to get through terrible experiences. (Maybe people from other countries do, too; I don't know.) In any case, "buff and blue" and "firecakes and water" apparently did help these guys to endure.
The Riddle of Penncroft Farm
One of the other men guffawed. “You’ll soon be reduced to the official colors—Continental buff and blue—like most of us. We’re nearly stripped to the buff and blue with cold!” By then I’d learned that making such pitiful jokes was one of the onlyweapons these poor fellows had in facing their foes: hunger, cold, and grinding boredom. Not that anyone was actually starving to death—from time to time supplies did arrive at camp, but the roads were often nearly impassable. And sometimes the wagoners lightened loads by draining off the saltwater that preserved the food, so that what did arrive was rotten. When that happened, the soldiers survived on firecake, a tasteless mixture of flour and water charred over the fire. They even joked about this, saying they varied their diet by sometimes eating “firecakes and water” and other times eating “water and firecakes.”