"The Wall Street Journal" Best Children's Books of 2012 "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, New York Times best-selling author of Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close "Rich, absorbing storytelling-a terrific read in every way." -Nancy Werlin, National Book Award Finalist and author of "Impossible" "Delightful characters, unique setting, and lovely prose. Read more...
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"The Wall Street Journal" Best Children's Books of 2012 "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, New York Times best-selling author of Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close "Rich, absorbing storytelling-a terrific read in every way." -Nancy Werlin, National Book Award Finalist and author of "Impossible" "Delightful characters, unique setting, and lovely prose. This is historical fiction at its best " -Ruta Sepetys, New York Times best-selling author of Between Shades of Gray Fate:
Is it written in the stars from the moment we are born?
Or is it a bendable thing that we can shape with our own hands?
Jepp of Astraveld needs to know.
He left his countryside home on the empty promise of a stranger, only to become a captive in a luxurious prison: Coudenberg Palace, the royal court of the Spanish Infanta. Nobody warned Jepp that as a court dwarf, daily injustices would become his seemingly unshakable fate. If the humiliations were his alone, perhaps he could endure them; but it breaks Jepp's heart to see his friend Lia suffer.
After Jepp and Lia attempt a daring escape from the palace, Jepp is imprisoned again, alone in a cage. Now, spirited across Europe in a kidnapper's carriage, Jepp fears where his unfortunate stars may lead him. But he can't even begin to imagine the brilliant and eccentric new master-a man devoted to uncovering the secrets of the stars-who awaits him. Or the girl who will help him mend his heart and unearth the long-buried secrets of his past.
Masterfully written, grippingly paced, and inspired by real historical characters, "Jepp, Who Defied the Stars "is the tale of an extraordinary hero and his inspiring quest to become the master of his own destiny."
Publishers Weekly® Reviews
- Reviewed in: Publishers Weekly, page .
- Review Date: 2012-09-17
- Reviewer: Staff
In the final years of the 16th century, a 15-year-old dwarf named Jepp struggles to understand himself and his place in the world; he’s caught between the pull of the past, the promise of the future, and the forces of fate and free will. The first of the book’s three sections finds a battered and beaten Jepp being transported ignobly in a cage to an unknown destination; along the way, he recalls the events that led him there, from his humble upbringing in an inn to becoming a court dwarf in Brussels (a role in which humiliation, opportunity, and danger are closely entwined). Jepp’s fortunes continue to wax and wane in the later sections, as he arrives at the island castle of astronomer Tycho Brahe. As in Marsh’s The Night Tourist and The Twilight Prisoner, real history is effortlessly woven into her fiction: while Jepp has his roots in an actual dwarf who served Brahe, Marsh transforms his “footnote” of a story into an epic search for love, family, respect, and a destiny of one’s own making. Ages 12–up. Agent: Alex Glass, Trident Media Group. (Oct.)
A quest of destiny
There is a long history of prejudice against people with dwarfism, and while today we know it is usually caused by a genetic disorder, author Katherine Marsh details the cruel treatment of Renaissance dwarf jesters in her fascinating new novel. To imagine the world of Jepp, Who Defied the Stars, Marsh drew inspiration from a portrait of a court dwarf to Philip IV of Spain, “Don Sebastián de Morra” by Diego Velázquez—a painting that suggests sympathy for the poorly treated little people of the day.
Jepp leaves home for court, thinking that a whole new world will open for him; what he finds instead is a version of slavery. Punished for helping another dwarf try to escape, Jepp is sent to Uraniborg Castle to serve Lord Tycho, a character based on the real Danish astronomer Tycho Brahe.
Although a brilliant seeker of truth about the stars, Tycho is an eccentric, often cruel master. Jepp’s place at dinner is under the table, and he sleeps in the stable with Tycho’s pet moose. At first given menial tasks like filling inkpots and cleaning Tycho’s celestial globe, Jepp begins to learn from the scholars around him and eventually reveals his secret command of Latin. “Fate has cast me here, but I wish to learn and better myself,” he tells his master.
With an engaging hero and unusual setting, Jepp is compelling historical fiction about the treatment of those who are different and the challenges they face to be viewed as equals.