Ophelia and the Marvelous Boy by Karen Foxlee
Hardcover: 240 pages
Publisher: Knopf Books for Young Readers
Release Date: 28 January 2014
Age Level: Middle Grade
Source: eARC from NetGalley
Purchase: Amazon | Book Depository | IndieBound
A modern-day fairy tale set in a mysterious museum that is perfect for readers of Roald Dahl and Blue Balliett.
Unlikely heroine Ophelia Jane Worthington-Whittard doesn't believe in anything that can't be proven by science. She and her sister Alice are still grieving for their dead mother when their father takes a job in a strange museum in a city where it always snows. On her very first day in the museum Ophelia discovers a boy locked away in a long forgotten room. He is a prisoner of Her Majesty the Snow Queen. And he has been waiting for Ophelia's help.
As Ophelia embarks on an incredible journey to rescue the boy everything that she believes will be tested. Along the way she learns more and more about the boy's own remarkable journey to reach her and save the world.
A story within a story, this a modern day fairytale is about the power of friendship, courage and love, and never ever giving up.
Every now and again you come across a book that captures your heart and imagination so well, it's difficult to step away from the magic and mystery for even a second. Ophelia and the Marvelous Boy is one of those books. Karen Foxlee has given the world of literature a charming, well-written, touching novel that will appeal to readers of all ages.
At the heart of this novel is Ophelia Jane Worthington-Whittard, our plucky heroine. Ophelia, her father and her older sister, Alice, have moved to a place that always snows, where her father is to work in a museum for a special exhibit about swords. Ophelia is a young girl you can't help but be fond of. She's certainly not perfect, but she is brave and smart and a lot more tough than even she could ever imagine. Ophelia is also quite the scientifically minded girl, always looking for ways to dissect a situation and find rational reasons behind everything that happens. As the story progresses, though, you really get to see her branching out and utilizing her imagination and intuition as well. One thing I liked about this character is she isn't the kind of kid you would normally see depicted as the hero of the story. She's kind of small for her age, frequently has smudged glasses, has fairly bad asthma, eschews dresses for pants, lacks some self-confidence, prefers dinosaurs to dolls and questions absolutely everything. She's not particularly brave (in her opinion), but she is ever so curious about her world. In the beginning of the book, we find out that Ophelia has lost her mother to an illness. It's so heartbreaking watching her try to handle such a huge loss as her young age, but she really tries to push through it and find happiness again. Like I said, you simply can't avoid loving this little girl and hoping everything turns out well for her.
Whilst her father buries himself in his work, and Alice grumbles (or is enthralled by the fashionable museum curator, Miss Kaminski), Ophelia wanders around the maze of a museum. During one of her many trips through the eclectic collections, she discovers a little locked door, and can't resist looking in the keyhole. I love that she's so inquisitive! I was like her at that age; no keyhole was safe from my curious little eyes, for sure! Imagine her surprise when she sees an eye staring right back at her! An eye belonging to a boy who looks to be no older than she is. The Marvelous Boy has many stories to tell Ophelia, including ones about wizards, giant owls, his name being taken away and how Ophelia must help him save the world from the Snow Queen. Being the science-minded girl she is, Ophelia initially decides that this Marvelous Boy simply can't be real. She tries to pretend that, anyway, but fails to keep her curious little mind from going back to see him. I won't give any spoilers, but I will say that my heart simply broke for this poor little boy who has been imprisoned in this tiny, hidden room for so long. I loved his stories and how you really got a feeling for his character through them. I also loved the interactions between him and Ophelia. I'm sure it comes as no surprise that Ophelia decides to help him, at least a little bit at first, anyway. He sends her off to accomplish certain tasks, each one thrilling and terrifying at the same time. Needless to say, she makes use of her inhaler a lot.
The villain(s) in this book will give you goosebumps, but I don't think they're so scary that it will frighten young readers too much. All the rooms and collections in the museum were very interesting. So many strange and wondrous things, which I'm sure will ignite the imagination of every reader. The writing in this novel is brilliant. The pace is set perfect that, though a lot goes on, you never feel as though you're stumbling along. Nor do you feel that the story drags at any point. Karen Foxlee's writing is beautiful and engaging and full of heart. That's another thing I like about this story: it's full of heart. Though the family is still grieving over their loss, the author has portrayed it with such tenderness and reverence. Really, this book is simply magical.
Ophelia and the Marvelous Boy is bound to be a favorite for young readers looking for a harrowing adventure full of magic, wonder and a brilliant, plucky heroine. I highly recommend everyone go out and buy a copy. I also think this would be a great book to read in the classroom. Pick up Ophelia and the Marvelous Boy, you guys. Your inner child will thank you.
A favorite quote: “And you might think a name is just a name, nothing but a word, but that is not the case. Your name is tacked to you. Where it has joined you, it has seeped into your skin and into your essence and into your soul.”