In June, 1825, spunky, rebellious Clara Hargraves (14) has a couple of big problems: her red hair makes her a target for teasing, and her stepmother (formerly her spinster aunt) keeps trying to make her act like a young lady. Clara’s small New Hampshire town is abuzz because Lafayette, hero of the American Revolution, is about to visit on his “Farewell Tour” of America. In one eventful week, Clara learns a lot about her family, herself, and, most of all, about Lafayette and his vital role in America’s fight for independence. 2017 eLit Awards Bronze Medalist, Juvenile/Young Adult Category; recipient of the Children's Literary Classics "Seal of Approval"; recommended on the Grateful American Kids website as one of the best history book for kids to read; and named one of the top ten middle grade entries in the 2016 Booklife Prize in Fiction (Quarter Finalist)
Fifty years after American independence, General Lafayette is visiting all 24 of the new nation's states and everyone is eager to catch a glimpse of the honored guest, even 14-year old Clara Hargaves. Jensen effortlessly weaves history together with the daily trials of a girl resenting her stepmother’s reminders to behave like a lady. Most schoolchildren know Lafayette’s role in the Revolutionary War only superficially, and Jensen makes him come alive in a way they will remember. Historical accuracy, character development, and engaging dialogue enliven this narrative and make it an enjoyable read.
Date Submitted: August 15, 2016
American History your Students will Love to Read
A Buss from Lafayette is a great way for pre-teens to understand the American Revolution. Dorothea Jensen is accurate in the telling of our American Revolution and how our French Allies assisted us. Lafayette, the celebrated Revolutionary War hero, was critical to the process of our American victory. Jensen explains this with fun detail and an awesome glossary to assist readers with 19th Century English vocabulary. This historical fiction piece could be used in any middle Social Studies or English Language Arts class. Read by the whole class or used for book circles or independent reading for students who want to “read more”. I teach American History to 9th graders and plan to use it next year. The Lexile is perfect and the style of writing will be current for our middle school students. Thanks to Jensen for writing a book about history that is accurate, suspenseful and fun. I teach in Wisconsin.
A Timely and Wonderfully Appealing Historical Novel
With the current remarkable interest in the American Revolution due to the musical Hamilton, this delightful and poignant book of historical fiction comes along at just the right time to catch the wave, with a focus this time on Lafayette and his many vital contributions to the revolution. The frame of the story is set many years later, when Lafayette made his farewell tour of the United States as the revered and acclaimed Nation’s Guest. In many ways the book is a wonderful paean to Lafayette, whose influence on our history has been forgotten by so many. But the book is also the story of fourteen-year-old Clara, a thoroughly engaging young heroine full of tremendous energy and agency. She captivates, charms, and ultimately steals the heart of the reader, young or old.
The book is beautifully–often eloquently–written; the narrative seamlessly blends history and fiction, each enriching the other with emotional and psychological authenticity and meticulous historical detail. The story is filled with timeless and timely gender issues, so vitally relevant to young girls and women today. I loved the historical richness of the novel—its beautiful attention to both minute details of everyday life in 1825 New Hampshire and to the sweep of events in American history. This is wonderful storytelling.
Through her journal entries and first person narrative, we see clearly into Clara’s heart and mind as she comes of age. We are moved as we witness her journey to discover and understand her own prejudice and assumptions about people very close to her, especially her stepmother, and how she must be open and learn certain truths about others and herself in order to find love, friendship, and intimacy. -Midwest Reader, Amazon
A Splendidly Told Tale
A Buss from Lafayette is an exquisitely detailed and beautifully penned historical fiction novel that chronicles a week’s worth of events that ultimately transform a girl into a budding young woman.
It’s the summer of 1825 and General Lafayette is on a farewell tour as the Nation’s Guest. People are lining up in the big cities just to catch a glimpse of this remarkable man who helped secure America’s freedom from the British.
At the same time, in the small town of Hopkinton, a girl named Clara Hargraves is celebrating her fourteenth birthday. However, Clara’s celebrating is cut short when she’s informed by her stepmother, who was/is also her aunt, that she is now a young woman and must start behaving as one. No more riding astride, no more wearing her brother’s breeches, and certainly no more swimming in the pond. Clara’s not sure what’s worse, her red hair or her stepmother who seems to be trying to ruin her life. On top of all this she’s been getting a funny feeling every time she’s around her brother’s friend, and her previous tormentor, Dickon Weeks and she’s just discovered her hideous cousin Hetty is coming for a visit. Could things get any worse? Clara’s about to find out and what unfolds just may change her life.
I am a big fan of historical fiction and was thrilled at the opportunity of reviewing A Buss from Lafayette and I must say the author does not disappoint. The rich detail and vivid storytelling make it easy to fall into this story. I felt as though I was transported back in time to experience life with Clara and could feel the excitement in the air as the town was a buzz with the talk of Lafayette.
The author also makes her characters easy to relate to which gives the story a sense of timelessness. It’s easy to understand Clara’s emotional struggles of accepting her stepmother, her nervousness around a certain young man, and her desire to fit in when all her red hair does is stand out. Readers will also be able to identify with the stepmother who wants to be loved and welcomed by her stepchildren, but is also dealing with the pain of losing her sister.
I think one of my favorite aspects of the story is how the author is able to weave a history lesson throughout the daily lives of her characters. Sitting around the dinner table, visiting in town, or chatting after church seem so natural that it’s easy to become engrossed in the story and forget you’re learning.
Kudos to Dorothea Jensen for a splendidly told tale. I highly recommend picking up a copy. – Stacie, Goodreads Review
A Buss From Lafayette is a historical fiction novel that takes the reader through a week in the life of 14-year old Clara. The year is 1825 and Clara lives in the small town of Hopkinton, New
Hampshire with her father, stepmother, and brother. The story centers on the town’s excitement surrounding the upcoming visit from General Lafayette, a hero and famous French aristocrat from the Revolutionary War.
The book is written from quick-witted Clara’s perspective, and each new day’s adventures are prefaced by an entry from her diary, which provides a clever preview of the events to come. Clara feels life is unfair because of her family life, her lack of traditional schooling, and her red hair, which she is plotting to try to change to “a beautiful shade of black.” Weaved through her story are the events leading up to General Lafayette’s visit, who is known for delivering to his many admirers a “buss”, which, at the time, was the word used for a playful kiss on the cheek.
The vivid descriptions of clothing, family relationships, period-specific customs, and daily routines create a charming picture of life in 1825, and these elements inform the senses while
reminding readers that the scene is from a different era.
“How I loved the smells: cloves and nutmeg from the Spice Islands, cinnamon from Ceylon, ginger and pepper from South America, and coffee from the West Indies. It
seemed to me that the general store smelt strongly of worldly adventure.”
As a historical piece, the book dives into rich detail on Revolutionary War tales. The characters retell stories of General Lafayette, General Washington, and others, providing readers with a thorough backdrop of history to accompany the book’s main storyline about Clara. Ms. Jensen also weaves throughout the story many words and objects that are common to the era, but are likely unfamiliar to the modern reader. A glossary included in the book provides a useful way for the reader to look up historical words, thus not having to rely upon context alone to interpret.
Recommended for teen readers that have an interest in history, this book is an enjoyable introduction to the post-Revolutionary War period in America, and provides a lovely story about
family, determination, and how perspective can change everything.