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The Riddle of Penncroft Farm

Pandemic Productions

If the videos do not play correctly on your device, follow the link below each to watch on Vimeo directly.

Riddle Reaches the Big 3-0!


The Riddle of Penncroft Farm was first published at the end of August in 1989. Therefore, August of 2019 marked the 3oth anniversary of the release of this book, which has never gone out of print! Hooray!



Lars Olafson moves with his parents to 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 Revolutionary War, and Geordie’s ghostly tales are his only chance of solving it.

Audio Excerpt, Chapter 4 (9.46 MB)

Here I am reading part of Chapter 4 from The Riddle of Penncroft Farm. This is part of the chapter I read at The Loft, a writing organization in Minneapols, when Riddle won the children's book in manuscript competition. It's a key moment in the story! (I'm hoping to get permission from Houghton Mifflin Harcourt to record an audiobook of the whole story.)


The Riddle of Penncroft Farm</> was recently added to the list of "Best History Books for Kids to Read" on the Grateful American Kids website! (My other historical novel for young readers, A Buss from Lafayette is on this list, too!)

The Riddle of Penncroft Farm won 1st place in the historical fiction category of the 2014 Purple Dragonfly Children's Book Awards.
Soon after publication, The Riddle of Penncroft Farm was named a "Teachers' Choices" Selection by the International Reading Association.
In 1991, The Riddle of Penncroft Farm won the Jeannette Fair Award, given by Delta Kappa Gamma, a women teachers' organization, to the best children's book written by a Minnesota woman.

Houghton Mifflin Harcourt released an e-book version of The Riddle of Penncroft Farm on February 11, 2014. Now available in Kindle, Nook, iBook, and other e-formats!

The Riddle of Penncroft Farm was an International Reading Association Teachers' Choice Selection and a Jeanette Fair Award winner. It was also a Master List Selection for the William Allen White Children’s Book Award, the Rebecca Caudill Award, the Mark Twain Award, the South Carolina Children’s Book Award, the Hoosier Young Readers Award, and the Sunshine State Young Readers Award.

As a manuscript, The Riddle of Penncroft Farm won the Children's Literature Competition at The Loft, a regional literary center in Minnesota.

Original Hardcover Edition Jacket


"Jensen...has found a way to make history personal and takes the young reader on a journey where they experience the revolutionary period of America from the perspective of the ordinary people living through these times. No longer is the American Revolution a series of events involving Samuel Adams, Thomas Jefferson, George Washington, and some tea in the Boston Harbor. Jensen’s story invites students to think about these historical times as if they were living through them and is an excellent selection for integrating social studies and language arts in the fifth grade classroom."

-Lisa Hatfield's Blog

"This is an entertaining mystery involving a missing will that could stand alone, but combined with Geordie's enthralling tales of Valley Forge during the American Revolution, Jensen gives readers two terrific stories that 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."

–Elizabeth Mellett, Brookline Public Library, MA, School Library Journal

“With historical and geographical literacy a priority in many schools now, historical fiction like Dorothea Jensen’s novel may be exactly what is needed.”

The Five Owls

“...a fascinating merge of contemporary concerns (new school, bullies) and historical fact. Having Geordie tell in his own words about such experiences as meeting George Washington will make those events come alive for readers. A good read-aloud choice when children study the American Revolution.”

American Library Association Booklist

“ ...the author's careful linking of present and past by using descendants of the 18th-century characters for their 20th-century counterparts, as well as by parallels in the plot, should intrigue readers. The well-researched historical episodes involving the Battle of Brandywine and the winter of 1777 at Valley Forge... move quickly; present-day events hold attention with the gradual unraveling of several mysteries... brings the past to life while thoughtfully presenting the division between Tory and Patriot in what Jensen fairly describes as ‘The First American Civil War’.”

Kirkus Children’s/Young Adult

“Fine historical novels include... The Riddle of Penncroft Farm.”

The Young Reader

This is one of my most cherished childhood favorites. The Riddle of Penncroft Farm combinese history and narrative to create one of the most charming and fun mystery/novel/history books that I have read. The story's protagonist, Lars Olafson, is forced to leave his home and move with his family to Valley Forge, Pennsylvania--needless to say he is not happy with the move. Besides having to acclimate himself to a new school and state, he is forced to learn the history of PA. Lagging far behind his classmates he wonders if anything can go right in his new home. Little does Lars know that with the death of Aunt Cass, his life will change dramatically. Not only will he forge a relationship with Geordie, the ghost of one of his revolutionary war relatives, but he will also have to try and solve a mystery before it is too late--where has Aunt Cass hidden her will??? This is a fabulous book to get that reluctant reader interested in reading. ~ Cheryl Cornwell


“Jensen has combined the two different time periods into an intriguing book that will appeal to every history buff, and help those who are not so enthusiastic to gain a better understanding of this time period... a delightful romp into history!”

Children's Book Review

"Great story! I'm glad I discovered this author. She writes so well and makes her characters so believable. Her other book of historical fiction about the American Revolution is "The Riddle of Penncroft Farm," which was published a while back in 1989. It got all sorts of awards and I'm sure this one will too. This one is about a 14-yr old girl, Clara, who lives in Hopkinton, NH in the 1820s when General Lafayette was on his tour of the US to celebrate the 50th year of American independence that he helped fight for. I never knew he had such impact on the success of the war! The author cleverly weaves the historical information into the story so that you learn about Lafayette as Clara does. And then you get the story about Clara dealing with a step-mother, being called carroty top for her red hair, and her brother's teasing friend, or is he maybe flirting???? (Don't worry, this does not need a PG designation; it's a completely wholesome story.) Lots of plot lines in this and all resolved in a believable way. Well done Ms. Jensen! Keep on writing! I would recommend this story to readers age 9-14 for personal enjoyment, but also teachers would benefit from this as you learn a lot about the American Revolution, Lafayette's role in it, and also about 1820s rural New England life which is when the actual story takes place." 5 Stars

- Sara, Goodreads

“ ...history comes alive... Dorothea Jensen has written a wonderful book that melds both past and present together... This novel is a perfect example of historical fiction.”

–Monroe County Library System, Rochester, NY

“An engrossing historical novel for grades 5-7.”

–Delaware County Library System, PA

“ ...a great way to get another view of the Revolutionary War... not at all didactic.”

–7th/8th Grade Reading Specialist, Apple Valley, MN

“An excellent way to present history to young readers. This kind of book is needed in our libraries to encourage our young readers to develop an interest in their history.”

–Materials Review Group, Wright State University, Dayton, OH

“ ...extremely interesting, well-written, fast-paced, and very difficult to put down. It is full of many fascinating bits of information, especially concerning everyday life in 1777. The characters, modern and historical, were all realistic, well-rounded and fully developed... ”

–Montgomery Cty. Intermediate Unit, King of Prussia, PA

“Very imaginative historical fiction.” (OUTSTANDING rating in all evaluation categories.)

–Gate Resource Center, Allegheny Intermediate Unit, Pittsburgh, PA

“A fast-paced historical novel that is presented in a unique, highly interesting form. Presented as a ghost story/mystery, this selection catches the readers imaginations by a variety of means... Lars’ story is [an] entertaining, fascinating, successful attempt that will capture the reluctant readers of historical fiction.”

–Public School Librarian, Tacoma, WA

“The American Revolution comes alive in this strong entry into the genre of historical fiction.”

–Children's Book Review Service, Brooklyn, NY

“Jensen has integrated the ways of the past with the events of today in an interesting way involving mystery & intrigue...a good addition for supplementing 5th grade Social Studies.”

–Monterey Peninsula Unified School District, Monterey, CA

“I liked the way the author mixed true historical facts and her fictional characters.” (Literary Merit: EXCELLENT ; Use: CURRICULUM UNITS, READING ; Effect on Reader: ABSORBING; Will Interest: STUDENTS AND TEACHERS ; Evaluation: RECOMMENDED)

–Dallas Christian School Review Group, Dallas, TX

“For anyone interested in history, this is excellent...This story would fit nicely with a unit on the Revolutionary War and would interest any youngster who wanted to live in these times. HIGHLY RECOMMENDED.”

–Lane Education Service District, Eugene, OR

“A delightful blend of mystery, history and fantasy. The mystery could stand on its own, but the ghostly tales of the Revolutionary War... make this a unique and exciting mix that should leave readers wanting more. A real find. RECOMMENDED.”

–Cumberland County Library, Thorofare, NJ

“Great addition to the 5th Grade Literature - History Curriculum. Should be in every class or library. Wonderful support material for U.S. History. SUPERIOR IN EVERY WAY.”

–Instructional Media and Services, San Diego City Schools, CA

“The fifth graders I teach absolutely loved The Riddle of Penncroft Farm. I feel I have found a gold mine in [this] book and hope that many pick it up and ‘discover it’ as I have done.”

–5th Grade Teacher, Sewickley, PA

“One of my all time favorites... full of historical facts, but written with such an engaging story line that every student I have used it with has thoroughly enjoyed it.”

–Readable Novels on the American Revolution,

“ ...allows the reader to see into the lives of people who fought in the American Revolution and the conflicts the war caused among family members. It adds life and personal involvement to normally flat, factual descriptions found in history books."

–School Librarian, Bethlehem, PA

“ ...interesting details about life in the eighteenth century permeate the book, the counterpoint tales of Geordie and Lars are arranged to increase the suspense.”


“I’ve used your wonderful novel with my 7th grade students for about five years now.’s fun to watch them make the connections between the textbook version of the war and the ‘first-hand’ account from Geordie’s story.”

–Middle School Teacher, NY

"This is one of my most cherished childhood favorites. The Riddle of Penncroft Farm combines history and narrative to create one of the most charming and fun mystery/novel/history books that I have read... This is a fabulous book to get that reluctant reader interested in reading."

- Cheryl Cornwell

"Filled with all sorts of interesting historical details, I finished this book in about half the time I expected to. It's a fun and engaging mystery, and the historical parts are quite realistic. A great read, especially if you are interested in the American Revolution." -YA and Kids Books Central

"The Riddle of Penncroft Farm is a summer reading book for students going into sixth grade. The author is Dorothea Jensen. It is recommended for children ages 10-14, but it is a perfect book for anyone over the age of 10. . .Without giving away the rest of the book, I will say this is an exemplary book. Jensen has a great vocabulary that describes every excruciating detail. For a summer reading book, this book is phenomenal. I highly recommend it for anyone who enjoys riddles."

- A Book Review by Jennifer M., Grade 5

To read more great reviews of this story,
please go to its listing on the Amazon website via the link to the right.