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Contemporary Realistic Fiction, Early/Young Readers, Fairy/Folk/Tall Tale, Fantasy/Science Fiction, Middle Grade Readers, Read-Aloud Suggestions, Teacher & Parent Recommendations

OPHELIA AND THE MARVELOUS BOY by Karen Foxlee

Ophelia and the Marvelous Boy

There are many things I love about Ophelia and the Marvelous Boy.   The description on the book jacket says:

In which young Ophelia rescues a magical boy, battles the Snow Queen, and saves the world.

This is a perfect summary of the story.  It is an extraordinary mingling of modern-day characters with the fairy tale of The Snow Queen. (Most people are now aware of The Snow Queen if they were not before due to Disney’s movie FrozenFrozen, however, departs from the original story in that their “Snow Queen” is not evil.)

In Ophelia and the Marvelous Boy Ophelia, her father and her sister Alice have arrived in what we are told only is “a foreign city.”  Ophelia’s father has accepted a job as the curator of Battle: The Greatest Exhibition of Swords in the History of the World at the city’s museum, hired by the strangely beautiful and intimidating Miss Kaminiski–who dresses in glittering white.  We find out that Ophelia’s mother has died “exactly three months, seven days, and nine hours ago.” When Ophelia, roaming about the museum, spies the Marvelous Boy through the keyhole of a room hidden away in the galleries she is shocked.

When he tells her he was chosen by the wizards to deliver a sword which will defeat the Snow Queen Ophelia does not believe him.  When he cannot tell her his name because the wizards took it to protect him Ophelia does not believe him.  Ophelia is a member of the Children’s Science Society of Greater London and believes what she can see and hear and touch, in things which can be proven through experimentation and demonstration. Although Ophelia does not believe his fantastical tale of waiting hundreds of years, that the world is about to be destroyed and frozen forever, ghosts, misery birds and an evil Snow Queen, she does see that he is imprisoned and agrees to help him.

Ophelia’s courage in facing monsters and magic while she struggles with the fact of her mother’s death is inspiring and touching.  The adventure itself is fast-paced; I often felt breathless, as if I was running through galleries from statues that became real and ghosts that wanted to steal my soul.  When Alice, who used to laugh and play with her and now seems far away and separate from them in her own pain after their mother’s death, falls under the spell of the museum curator Miss Kaminski Ophelia becomes first suspicious and then terrified of losing her sister.

Ophelia’s present-day life is interwoven with memories of her mother’s life and death and the tale of the Marvelous Boy. The museum is the perfect setting:  spooky for children who know the truth and utterly every day to adults who do not.  Ophelia and the Marvelous Boy is a must-read for anyone who enjoys adventure, mystery, magic or fairy tales.  The timeless theme Good versus Evil where the only way for Good to triumph is through kindness and courage and the love from which they both grow brilliantly envelops the characters and the adventure itself.  I read the book in two days–and I was mad when real life intruded and someone needed me to do something besides read!

Perfect for classroom and bedtime read-alouds!  I loved Ophelia and the Marvelous Boy on many levels.  For me it felt like a heart-healing balm in light of the daily bumps and bruises we take from life.  Enjoy!

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