Ophelia and the Marvelous Boy

240p. Knopf. 2014. Tr $16.99. ISBN 9780385753548. LC 2013012236.
RedReviewStarGr 4–6—This inventive and engaging fantasy, based on the story of the Snow Queen, will be a welcome addition to middle grade collections. Solidly scientific-minded Ophelia, whose mother has recently died, moves with her older sister and father to a snowy and wintry city, where her father is busy working on a museum exhibition of historical swords. Wandering through the museum, Ophelia discovers a boy who has been locked in a room for years, and who needs her help. Much to her own surprise Ophelia takes greater and greater risks in order to win his freedom, and, in the process, forges a strong connection with the memory and spirit of her mother. It is Ophelia's sister who plays the role of Kay, bewitched by the gifts given to her by the evil Miss Kaminski, the head of the museum. Foxlee's characters come alive immediately. While Ophelia is contemporary in her ordinariness, her courage and determination to save the people she cares about harkens back to archetypal fairy tale heroes and heroines. Foxlee skillfully reveals the story of the boy as the plot unfolds. The setting is carefully and at times spookily drawn, as Ophelia faces terrifying dangers in deserted museum corridors. The writing sparkles and the pleasing restraint of the style is happily reflected in the short length of the book. Foxlee's fresh and imaginative take on this classic tale will be snapped up by fantasy and adventure lovers alike.—Sue Giffard, Ethical Culture Fieldston School, New York City
Ophelia discovers a boy who's the Snow Queen; to rescue him, Ophelia must find the boy’s missing sword. This is a fable of psychic healing, in which Ophelia, mourning her mother, must battle the Queen armed only with her powers as "defender of goodness and happiness and hope." Foxlee's deftness with characterization and setting makes this a satisfying fantasy.
Exploring the museum where her father is a guest curator, Ophelia discovers a small room in which, looking through a cleverly hidden keyhole, she spies the bright eye of a boy. He tells her that he's a prisoner of the Snow Queen, who, Ophelia discovers, is none other than Miss Kaminski, the museum's head curator. To defeat her, someone must find the boy's missing sword--and that someone is clearly Ophelia. Despite her conviction that "anything is possible if you have a plan," she learns that to succeed she must repress her scientific reasoning and use her heart. This is a fable of psychic healing, in which grieving Ophelia, mourning her mother only three months dead, must battle the Queen's sword (named the Great Sorrow) armed only with her powers as "defender of goodness and happiness and hope." The fable's moral and allegorical elements are thus readily apparent, but Foxlee's deftness with characterization and setting also makes this a satisfying fantasy. There's many a children's novel set in a museum, but Foxlee's is noteworthy for its creative abundance of exhibits (including sewing baskets and teaspoons, "A Millennium of Religious Hats," "Culture of the Cossacks," "History of Silhouettes," and many more). deirdre f. baker

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