Book Review: Ophelia and the Marvelous Boy

Ophelia and the Marvelous Boy by Karen Foxlee Book Cover


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.

Book Details

Ophelia and the Marvelous Boy by Karen Foxlee
Illustrated by Yoko Tanaka
Middle Grade Fiction, Fantasy, Fairy Tales
Published January 28th 2014 by Knopf Books for Young Readers
Hardcover, 240 pages
Recieved by NetGalley
My rating is 4.5 of 5 Stars


My Review

Ophelia and the Marvelous Boy by Karen Foxlee is a spellbinding tale filled with adventure, mystery, and magic. Beautifully written, this is a nestled stylized story that uses the themes from Hans Christian Andersen's The Snow Queen and creates something new and unique.

In Which Ophelia Jane Worthington-Whittard
discovers a boy in a locked room and
is consequently asked to save the world.

The story takes place in a mysterious city where it continually snows. Young Ophelia, along with her sister Alice, are still grieving for the loss of their mother when their father takes a job in a strange museum. While exploring the many nooks and crannies of the museum, Ophelia discovers a hidden door behind a mural with a golden keyhole.

Ophelia didn't consider herself brave, but she was very curious.
She was exactly the kind of girl who couldn't walk past a golden keyhole without looking inside.

Imagine her surprise when she discovers someone behind that golden keyhole, someone trapped who has an evil enchantment worked upon him, trapping him in his youth and taking from him his very name.

She knelt down to the keyhole and pressed her eye against it to see inside.
She did it without thinking.
It was the type of girl she was.
She did not expect anything unusual.
She did not expect to be looking into a large blue-green eye.

So begins the tale of how Ophelia meets The Marvelous Boy and is asked to save the world. Karen Foxlee has a lyrical, almost old-fashion tone to her writing. It reminded me of the qualities that many readers, both young and old, find appealing in classic children's books. Friendship, honor, and exciting quests. Magical tests and terrible villains. And the power of family and love. Good vs. evil.

As I stated before, this is a story within a story. As Ophelia meets The Marvelous Boy and is sent on three increasingly difficult task in order to rescue him from the Snow Queen, The Marvelous Boy's tale unfolds as he tells Ophelia after each quest a story about how he set off on a remarkable journey to rescue the world, but in reality he plays a part in rescuing Ophelia and her broken heart. So you have two timelines, Ophelia's running forward as she completes each task and The Marvelous Boy whose tale unwinds backward. Both ending at the completion of the last task.

One of my favorite aspects of the story, and I think young readers are going to really enjoy as well, is the three magical keys that unlock various doors in the museum. In fact, the museum comes to life similar in fashion to The Night at the Museum, only the elements are related to the fairy tale story of The Snow Queen. There are the Wintertide Clock counting down a warning against the Snow Queen, the snarling, misery birds on floor seven. There is a haunted hall where ghostly girls are trapped, and even magical owls and wizards. And let's not forget the presence of the Snow Queen throughout.

Ophelia makes a wonderful, unlikely heroine. Curious, yet only believing only in the facts, she finds herself opening up to the possibility of magic when she discovers the Marvelous Boy. She carries an inhaler and finds it difficult to run or take big scares, but this does not stop our young heroine which I really admired.

The Marvelous Boy is a bit mysterious as his tale unfolds. He's magical and plays a big part in Ophelia realizing her own strengths. Through his eyes, we learn of the evil Snow Queen and her hold on the museum and city itself. There's an old fashion fairy tale quality about his story that feels familiar yet new.

Ophelia's sister Alice and her father play an important part as secondary characters in the story. There's also a beautiful undercurrent theme of a mothers love and comfort throughout. Despite losing her mother, Ophelia learns that she is never really without her love nor is she far away.

In the End

Highly recommend to middle graders and even adults wanting to escape into a well-written fantasy story that takes the theme from The Snow Queen and creates something new, unique and heartwarming. A perfect read-a-loud story to tuck in your young ones before bedtime.

As a side note

You must peek inside this book! The illustrations are by Yoko Tanaka, and are gorgeous. They bring to life the many little discoveries in the museum. Yoko has also illustrated for Kate Dicamillo's The Magician's Elephant as well as many other authors.