Monday, March 5, 2018

Non-Electronic (but Sticky) Fun for Kids

I'm not a writer who is much given to metaphors and similes. However, when I wanted to convey the experience of walking a mile uphill on a very hot day, pulling taffy popped into my head.

“Unfortunately, that provoking boy was right: I could not get onto Feather by myself on the public road wearing a dress and pantalettes, and I did have to trudge all the way home. It seemed to me that the boiling white sun stretched the distance from the village to my home like hot taffy.” - A BUSS FROM LAFAYETTE © 2016 by Dorothea Jensen

I am sure that the reason I thought about taffy being very hot and stretchy was from reading Laura Ingalls Wilder 65 years ago.

"In the kitchen Eliza Jane and Royal were arguing about candy. Royal wanted some, but Eliza Jane said that candy-pulls were only for winter evenings. .Alice said she knew how to make candy. Eliza Jane wouldn't do it, but Alice mixed sugar and molasses and water, and oiled them; then she poured the candy on buttered platters and set it on the porch to cool They rolled up their sleeves and buttered their hands, ready to pull it. . ,Then they all pulled candy. They pulled it into long strands, and doubled the strands, and pulled again. . .It was very sticky. It stuck to their fingers and their faces, somehow it got in their hair and stuck. -  Laura Ingalls Wilder, Farmer Boy
 Anyway, below is a link to a recipe for old fashioned taffy. 

It's guaranteed to get your kids away from electronic gizmos for awhile, and it is lots of fun to do!

Wednesday, January 24, 2018

So I enlisted the help (fictionally) of Charles Willson Peale to paint my characters!

“It is quaint,” Mom said. “But that’s not the only quaint thing around. Wait until you see your bed— the one my brother used to sleep in at Penncroft. It has a canopy.” 

“A can o’ pee? You mean this place doesn’t have bathrooms?” 

Mom shook her finger at me. “You know very well what I mean, Lars. A canopy over the bed, not under it!”

 “It better not have ruffles,” I protested. “

Oh, don’t worry,” she said. “As canopies go, it’s not a bit frilly. It was masculine enough for your ancestor George to sleep under. Besides, George himself is hanging in your room. So’s his wife.” 

“H-h-h-hanging . .  . ,” I stuttered, every horror movie I’d ever seen replaying before my eyes. 

“She’s only teasing you, Lars,” Dad said. “It’s a portrait of the old boy by Charles Willson Peale, who painted most of the Revolution big shots, like Washington and Franklin. Well, here we are!” 

-The Riddle of Penncroft Farm © 1989 by Dorothea Jensen

Grateful American Kids website has posted an terrific article about Charles Willson Peale.  It starts out like this:
Charles Willson Peale (April 15, 1741 – Feb. 22, 1827) was an American painter, soldier, scientist, inventor, politician, and naturalist. He is best remembered for his portrait paintings of leading figures of the American Revolution, as well as for establishing one of the first museums.
Born in 1741 in Chester, Queen Anne’s County, MD, Peale became an apprentice to a saddle maker when he was 13 years old. When he got older, he opened his own saddle shop, but his political enemies conspired to bankrupt his business. He tried fixing clocks and working with metals, but both of these businesses failed as well. He then took up painting.

Read the rest of this article here:  Charles Willson Peale

Sometimes Stumbling on Something Unexpected is THE BEST!

I was wandering around the Metropolitan Museum of Art In NYC recently and ended up in the "Visible Storage" display. That's where I came across a portrait of General Lafayette done by Rembrandt Peale, son of the artist Charles Willson Peale. (Peale named several of his children - several of whom became skilled artists - after famous painters: Rembrandt Raphaelle, Sofonisba Anguissola, Rubens, Angelica Kauffman, and Titian.)

Rembrandt Peale painted this portrait of Lafayette during his Farewell Tour of 1824-5. Needless to say, as I have written a entire historical novel (A Buss from Lafayette) for young readers about this tour, I was delighted to stumble across this picture! I have been reading and writing about this man for the last twenty years, so this was like accidentally meeting an old friend!

Here is a better view of the picture.


 Here is what the Met website has to say about this portrait:

Marie Joseph Paul Yves Roche Gilbert du Motier, Marquis de Lafayette (1757–1834), is most vividly remembered for the role he played in the American Revolution. For his service, he was awarded membership in the Society of the Cincinnati. He returned to the United States in 1784, when he was honored by his former war associates and was awarded an honorary degree of Doctor of Laws by Harvard University. An invitation from Congress and President James Monroe brought him to the United States again in 1824, and for more than a year his triumphal tour provoked public demonstrations such as no American hero had ever experienced. Peale's portrait was apparently painted from life in 1825 at the height of Lafayette's fame. The porthole format and piercing heroic gaze are hallmarks of Peale's style and appear as well in his many depictions of George Washington.

Monday, January 15, 2018

She probably COULD cause a toothache!

Goody Two Shoes

I liked everything about school, right down to the sound of the pencils scritching on our slate tablets. Most of all, however, I loved hearing the teacher read stories and fairy tales to us aloud. Even the m – ore youthful fare read aloud in the classroom seemed to transport me right out of Hopkinton and into more exciting times and places. Not all the stories the teachers read had been so enjoyable, however. One in particular, a sickening story named Goody Two Shoes, had a heroine so sweet and, yes, so extraordinarily good that she could give real girls the toothache faster than the hard peppermint candy in Mr. Towne’s glass jars. 

Goody Two Shoes was probably just the sort of person my stepmother wished me to be: the kind of person my cousin Hetty pretended to be when adults were around. “Hetty is actually more ‘Goody Two-Faced,’” I murmured to no one in particular, turning my mind to the puzzle of why Hetty was so mean to me now.
-A Buss from Lafayette © 2016 by Dorothea Jensen

Yup, old Goody was sweet, all right. If you want to read the original story (it’s very short), follow this link for two different versions. (I’m sure that Clara’s teacher read the one published in 1820, btw.)

Goody Two Shoes

Goody Two Shoes was originally published in 1765. The author was anonymous, but was rumored to be Oliver Goldsmith. The title came to be used to signify someone who was a “goody goody” – the type of child who not only ALWAYS behaved the right way, but also tattled on those others who did not.
Goody Two Shoes was  re-published many times over the years. Usually the illustrations were re-done to reflect current clothing fashions. Here’s what Margery Meanwell (AKA Goody Two Shoes) looked like at various times:




Tuesday, January 9, 2018

I'm not ignoring my elves, either!

So just before we took down our Christmas tree, I took the opportunity to make short videos of myself reading the opening of all four of my Izzy elf stories.

Here's the first one: Tizzy, the Christmas Shelf Elf.

I actually wrote this MANY years ago (1991 to be exact) and entitled it Elf on the Shelf. You may imagine my dismay when I decided to publish it more than twenty years later and discovered someone had nicked that title!

You may also imagine my dismay when someone bought this book thinking it was Elf on the Shelf and then wrote a scathing review claiming it was a “knock off” " of that story, and that he found the story "impossible to read."

Hmmm. How did I knock off something produced YEARS after I wrote this?

Can't please everyone.

Anyway, enjoy listening to the beginning of this "knocked off", "unreadable" story in verse!

(BTW, this is available as a paperback, e-book, and audiobook right here.)


In the Works: An Audiobook of A Buss From Lafayette

Sometimes a little kiss can change everything - especially a little kiss from a world-famous hero of the America Revolution!

The other day I started recording the audio version of my historical novel for young readers, A Buss From Lafayette! I decided to document this beginning  by simultaneously making a video version of what I was doing. It was so much fun that I think I might have the video camera running while I record the rest of it. I could then post the occasional video as I go along.

The only downside??? This means I:

1) can't wear my PJs during recording sessions,

2) I have to comb my hair early in the day

3) I have to put on make up every day (not something I enjoy doing but it is nice to have my features actually show up onscreen)

Hmmm. Can I manage to do this every morning??

We'll see.



Thursday, December 7, 2017

I Do So Enjoy Being Right (Once in Awhile)

In A Buss from Lafayette, I had a hard time deciding who Clara would guess the old veteran is in the following conversation:

Stamping my foot in frustration, I turned to see whose presence was interfering with the fulfillment of my plan. Among the familiar characters, I saw a tall, skinny stranger who looked to be nearly eighty years of age. He was wearing a rather moth-eaten old uniform of buff and blue. His pure white hair was also in a bygone style, long— if a bit sparse in front— and tied behind with a black ribbon. He held a black tricorne decorated with a black and white cockade. Even through my irritation, I could see that the most interesting thing about the stranger was not his antiquated clothes, his overly long hair, or his three-cornered hat with its leather flower, but his excitement. He was about the most animated person, especially of his age, that I had ever seen. I moved closer to the old gentleman. If I had to wait until he was done talking to get what I wanted from Mr. Towne, I might as well listen to what he had to say. 

“You will never guess who I was mistook for yesterday!” he exclaimed. His merry eyes looked at each of us listeners in turn. 

All of our guesses fell wide of the mark, from Mr. Towne’s boisterous, “President Adams?” to my softly spoken, “Old Father Christmas?” 

“No, t’was for the Nation’s Guest!” the stranger declared, slapping his thigh. “

What? Someone thought you to be Lafayette? Are you jesting?” Mr. Towne spluttered. 

The stranger went off into gales of laughter. “I am telling you the truth of it: folks in the hundreds— nay, the thousands— thought me to be Lafayette himself!”

 - A Buss from Lafayette © 2016 by Dorothea Jensen

The reason for my difficulty? I couldn't decide what Clara would call Santa Claus. I explained this in a "Insight" I wrote last year:

I had trouble deciding what Clara's guess about the old veteran's mistaken identity should be. Clement Moore's poem, "A Visit from Saint Nicholas" (sometimes called "'Twas the Night Before Christmas") was actually published in 1823, two years before the time of my story. This verse, with its Dutch Sinter Klaas inspiration, eventually had a huge impact on the American concept of Santa, but I figured it might not have been widely known in 1825. Therefore I just called the jolly old elf "Old Father Christmas", an earlier English tradition. (Even though I am so fond of Moore's poem that I model all my Izzy Elf stories on it, anapestic tetrameter and all.)

Anyway, you may imagine my delight in coming across this Christmas celebration at Old Sturbridge Village, which depicts Clara's era (more or less). Please note the reference to Father Christmas in the last line, followed by a picture of this historic version of Santa. As OSV scrupulously strives for historical accuracy, I'm taking this to mean I was correct in my decision to use this term in A Buss from Lafayette. Woo hoo.

 All I can say is THANK YOU, Old Sturbridge Village!

Buy links for A Buss from Lafayette can be found up above on the right side of this page!