A Buss from Lafayette by Dorothea Jensen is the story of fourteen-year-old Clara Hargraves from Hopkinton, New Hampshire. Set in the early 1800’s, all of Hopkinton is excited about the “Nation’s Guest,” General Lafayette, traveling through their town. General Lafayette played an important role in winning the Revolutionary War and was famous at that time throughout the country. The book is a coming-of-age tale centered on the main character Clara’s self-consciousness about her bright red hair, her growing up and needing to act more lady-like, and her gradual acceptance of her stepmother Priscilla. The story tells of Clara’s budding attraction to her neighbor Dicken, the sibling rivalry between Clara and her brother Joss, a town dance, and making amends with her cousin Hetty. Lafayette and his accomplishments are also mentioned throughout the book. Readers will also discover that the word “buss” is an old-fashioned word for “kiss.” On Clara’s way home to tell her father that her stepmother Priscilla is about to give birth, Clara ends up getting a kiss, or “buss,” on the cheek from General Lafayette.
A Buss from Lafayette is a charming work of fiction with many historical facts peppered throughout the novel. The protagonist, Clara Hargraves, is a strong-willed, tomboyish, quick-witted girl who is fun to read about and makes the pages of the book come to life. The strengths and accomplishments of General Lafayette are interesting and seamlessly woven through the story of Clara, her family, and her town. In the end, this is a wonderful novel about a young girl and the events that shape her world.