Books & More from the Teen Scene

Book reviews and other reflections from one of Oregon's young adult librarians

“Jepp, Who Defied the Stars” by Katherine Marsh December 1, 2012

Filed under: Fiction,Historical Fiction,Young Adult — hilariouslibrarian @ 8:34 pm
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Jeep Who Defied the Stars cover

Images courtesy of GoodReads.com

The Facts

369 pages; published October 2012

The Basics

Jepp, a dwarf born in the 1500s in Astraveld, strikes out to seek his fortune on the promise of a stranger. Sold as an amusement to the Infanta, ruler of the Spanish Netherlands,  and later sent away again and sold into the service of an eccentric Danish astronomer, Jepp sturdily continues to believe in his value as a man and in his right to determine his own destiny.

Review

Jepp is just so charming, he makes this book almost irresistible. Life is not easy for this 16th century dwarf. He is tempted away from the hearth of his loving mother to become one of a troupe of dwarfs who entertain the Infanta, ruler of the Spanish Netherlands. Things get complicated and after many sad events, Jepp is on the road again, this time headed to the home of another historic figure – the rather strange Danish astronomer Tycho Brache. Tycho and his jumble of family and young scholars live on an island given to Tycho by the Danish crown. They carry on at all hours, at times mapping the stars with tremendous mathematical skill, and at times roaring with laughter at the drunken antics of Tycho’s pet moose who has developed a taste for ale, all the while struggling to keep Tycho’s copper prosthetic nose affixed to his face. Through it all is Jepp, earnest and smart and resilient as he manages to elevate himself, sort out the mysteries of his paternity, and maintain his faith in true love.

The big question explored throughout the book is one of destiny vs free will – whether a man (no matter how tall) might be ruled by the stars or whether he himself is the most powerful force in the course of his own life.

Blurb from the Cover So Awesome I Wish I Had Written It

“This highly unusual story about a highly unusual hero will also feel like your story. Few of us are imprisoned dwarfs, but all of us want to guide our own lives. ” — Jonathan Safran Foer, author of Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close

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