Tuesday, January 8, 2013

Jepp, Who Defied the Stars - Katherine Marsh

Take a look at the cover art on this book. Whom would you suppose this book is written for ? I had  this conversation with my nephew and he agreed with me that this book cover would appeal to upper elementary and perhaps middle school students. That being said, as I got into the story of Jepp, a young Belgian boy of the late 16th century, I became convinced that not only is this a story for older students and adults, but it has content that is ripe for discussion with older teen-agers. Issues raised in this book range from a person's right to know their parentage and familial history to issues of gender equity, the rise of scientific inquiry in the early Christian world, sensitivity to the issues that people with physical disabilities have, rape and a person's personal responsibility to victims of sexual and emotional violence, and the will that everyone has to make their lives mesh with their dreams and hopes. It goes on and on ... all very deep and weighty topics.

All these issues are wrapped up in a well-researched story of the rise of the astronomical research done by such early scientists as Tycho Brache and Copernicus, the courts of the Spanish nobility, and the fate of a young court dwarf named Jepp whose misadventures take him from Belgium to the coast of the North Sea and to points beyond.

Katherine Marsh has written an excellent story that lets the reader be drawn into the fictitious life of the young protagonist, Jepp as well as the gritty world of court politics. It takes all Jepp's intelligence and fortitude to survive and prosper in this world where the divide between nobility and commoner is so stark, where God-given rights are easily trampled by nobles in their rush to live their lives of plenty and reach higher on the social ladder, where court hangers-on will do much to establish a safe spot of ease for themselves at the expense of the rights and comforts of the less fortunate, where a young man must be determined in order to overcome the odds and take control of his destiny.

This has been a good read all the way around ... but my one recommendation to Ms. Marsh and her  book's publishers would be to change up the presentation on the book jacket ... fast .... before this book gets relegated to the elementary school library book stacks.

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