Ophelia and the Marvelous Boy
By Karen Foxlee
Expected publication January 28, 2014 by Knopf Books for Young Readers
Ophelia's father has just been chosen to help curate a very important display for a museum in a very cold and snowy city far from their home. So, Ophelia, her father, and her sister head for that icy city. But Ophelia stumbles upon something remarkable in a less-traveled part of the museum: the Marvelous Boy. And this Marvelous Boy believes that Ophelia can help him defeat the Snow Queen. Can Ophelia believe it about herself?
I snagged the e-ARC of this in my never ending quest to read more middle-grade and read it on a recent trip. I will say it's the perfect wintry read and I imagine it's also probably a good read-alike for the movie Frozen, though I haven't seen it yet so I can't say for sure.
Anyway, I liked the fairy tale feel of this story and I really liked the backstory of the Marvelous Boy. I'm not as familiar with the story of the Snow Queen as I am with other folk tales so maybe some of Foxlee's story is pretty typical, but I found it very fascinating. I liked Ophelia as well. She is smart and brave, though she is still struggling with self-confidence. I think it will be easy for kids to relate to her. I'm of two minds when it comes to the dead mother aspect of the story. On the one hand, I think it adds another layer to the book that works really well and explains a lot of the character motivations. On the other, it's so typically fairy tale that it seems just a bit too convenient. I think, ultimately, I fall down on the side of the former, but it's a pretty close call.
While there is quite a bit of action and adventure in this story, it's more of a quiet sort, if that makes any sense. The main thrust of the action seems to be to get Ophelia believing in herself and I think it serves that purpose well. I think the nature of the action here is quite unique as well, so it worked for me.
The main thing that bothered me about this book was the setting. It's referenced frequently as a large city in a cold place where it always snows. But it's never given a name. I get that maybe Foxlee didn't want to set the book precisely in this world, but I was distracted the entire time trying to figure out if she meant Moscow and if she did, why didn't she just say it already?
Thanks to the publisher for a digital advance reader's copy, provided via Edelweiss.