Ophelia and the Marvelous Boy by Karen Foxlee

Alfred A. Knopf Books for Young Readers, 2014.

Ophelia, her teenaged sister, and her father have traveled to a museum in a far away, wintry city for Christmas. It’s the first Christmas since Ophelia’s mother has died, and Father snapped at the chance to get away from home. He’s replacing the missing curator of a sword exhibition three days before opening. Father is so busy that Ophelia and Alice are left on their own to explore the museum and the city. But Alice is moody, as usual, and Ophelia begins to explore the museum on her own.

Uninterested in following the museum curator’s suggestions of exhibits little girls would like to visit, Ophelia soon finds herself in an unused part of the building staring through a keyhole at a boy who claims to be a prisoner in his room. The boy convinces Ophelia to begin a series of quests to free him and possibly even save the world. Soon Ophelia finds that the artifacts in the museum are not what they seem—nor is the beautiful curator. It will take all of Ophelia’s strength and courage to save the Marvelous Boy.

The snow queen is not a story I know well, but I certainly enjoyed this version. Setting the snow queen’s castle as a modern museum is a wonderful device to move this ancient story into the modern, if magical, world. Karen Foxlee keeps the story moving with plenty of action and suspense. Ophelia is an appealing and flawed heroine who uses her smarts, determination, and imagination to solve each new challenge she faces. Her memories of interactions with her mother shed light into her character and also into her process of grieving. The story leaves the door open for a sequel. I hope it will come. Ophelia and the Marvelous Boy is a great middle grade read!

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