Jepp, Who Defied the Stars

Written by Katherine Marsh
Review by Beth Turza

Jepp, Who Defied the Stars is a story about a little man who reminds us that anything is obtainable if you stay strong and have faith. Jepp lives in a small village in the late 16th-century Spanish Netherlands, where he cultivates an interest in the stars and astrology. But his life changes when a courtier of the Infanta Isabella seeks him out to become a court dwarf. Jepp becomes one of the dwarves serving as entertainers at the Palace of Coudenberg, and his new life is filled with daily injustices and humiliations. When treachery and jealousy in the court cause Jepp to be sent away to a remote island, he meets Tycho Brahe, a brilliant astronomer who spends long nights studying the stars and planets. Though Tycho dismisses Jepp’s own knowledge of the stars, the astronomer’s daughter Magdalene discovers Jepp in the library and a mutual respect soon blooms between them. With Magdalene’s help, Jepp strives to prove his worth to his new master and find the answers to his own mysterious past.

This book offers a peek into the lives of dwarfs and midgets in early history – with all of the injustices and prejudices that occurred – told in the voice of a brave and intelligent young hero. The fascination with the “little people” in the royal courts of the period was well documented and researched, and I found this book to be an interesting read, one difficult to set aside for long.