Not long ago I got a message from author Dorthea Jenson that my review of her fantastic middle grade book, “A Buss From Lafayette”, was accepted for print in the November edition of the Midwest Book Review.
Cool , I have been published! This seemed like a great catalyst to launch a new feature. My eighth grader brings home the best books for his LA classes. Some of them I know and read myself in middle school, others are new to me. Combine those with some of the fabulous middle grade books I have read for review and the Middle School Reading List was born. I am looking forward to share new stories and discussing old favorites.
I originally read “A Buss From Lafayette” for a blog tour and I am glad to have been to exposed to it. It is a part of history that I find fascinating, yet it covers a part of it that I was completely unaware of. I fully believe that this is a book that most young teens and not a few adults, will thoroughly enjoy. The most exciting thing I learned? What exactly is a buss. This is a a full scale history lesson disguised as a can’t put it down story. My full review is re-posted below. Find the original blog tour post >>HERE
Get more information about the book, including a classroom study guide, by visiting this website
Title: A Buss From Lafayette
Author: Dorothea Jensen
Genre: Middle Grade/Young Adult Historical Fiction
Recommended Ages: 10-17
Number of Pages: 266
Publisher: BQB Publishing
Publication Date: April 22, 2016
Fourteen-year-old Clara Hargraves lives on a farm in Hopkinton, a small New Hampshire town, during the early 19th century. She has a couple of big problems. First of all, she has a stepmother, Priscilla, who used to be her spinster schoolteacher aunt. Clara resents that her late mother’s older sister has not only married her father but is about to have a baby. To make matters worse, “Prissy Priscilla” keeps trying to make the rambunctious, clever, and witty Clara act like a proper young lady. Secondly, Clara has red hair, making her a target for teasing by a handsome older boy, Dickon Weeks, and by her pretty seventeen-year-old Dread Cousin Hetty. Clara, however, has a secret plan she hopes will change this. During the last week of June, 1825, Clara’s town is abuzz because the famous General Lafayette is about to visit their state during his farewell tour of America. In those eventful seven days, Clara learns a lot about her family, Hetty, Dickon, herself, and about Lafayette. She comes to understand the huge and vital role the young French aristocrat played in America’s Revolutionary War and to see that her problems might not be quite so terrible after all.
In this coming of age novel, Clara Hargraves must come to terms with a step mother she feels is trying to take her dead mother’s place, her flaming red hair that draws attention and teasing, and just being a 14 year old girl.
The book takes place in 1825 and as the title suggests, central to the story is the tour of The States by revolutionary War Hero, General Lafayette. While Clara navigates the inevitable and timeless pitfalls of being a 14 year old, the world around her is a buzz with Lafayette’s tour stops. It seems that where ever she goes the adults are discussing him and his contribution to the Revolutionary War. Against that canvas Clara gets to learn a few things about life not always being what it seems. Maybe her Evil Stepmother/Aunt isn’t the villain Clara would like to believe. Maybe her hateful “perfect’ cousin isn’t so perfect after all. And that boy who has been teasing her mercilessly for years, well just maybe he isn’t so bad either. An unexpected meeting will change her perspective on herself and her family.
Middle grade girls will immediately identify and relate with Clara. Despite the historical time gap, Clara’s life isn’t so different from theirs; Chores, boys, growing womanhood and greater responsibilities. Meanwhile, without even realizing it they will pick up an excellent education on the primary figures of the American Revolution, as well what life was like for kids their age in the early 1800’s. For that reason, I believe in a classroom setting this book would also appeal to middle grade boys.
I received a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review
Dorothea Jensen, born in Boston, Massachusetts, grew up in Chillicothe, Illinois. She majored in English literature at Carleton College. After teaching high-school English and serving as a Peace Corps volunteer in Brazil, she earned a master s degree in education at the University of New Mexico. In 1989, Harcourt Brace Jovanovich published Dorothea s novel for young readers about the American Revolution, The Riddle of Penncroft Farm. In addition to other honors, it was named an International Reading Association Teacher s Choices Selection and is read in classrooms throughout the U.S. A Buss from Lafayette is set in the small New Hampshire town where Dorothea lives. Two things inspired her to write this story. First, was learning that Lafayette passed right by her house during his 1824-5 Triumphal Tour. Another was meeting a woman whose ancestor received a kiss from Lafayette. That buss, passed down through generations, eventually came to Dorothea. This sparked her interest in Lafayette s contributions to our struggle for independence. Dorothea also enjoys writing rhyming verse. She has written a series of award-winning illustrated modern Christmas stories in verse featuring Santa’s Izzy Elves.
For more information about Dorothea and her books, please visit http://www.dorotheajensen.com/.