Ophelia and the Marvelous Boy is a fantastical fairy tale retelling of the Snow Queen. Although I'm not a fan of the cover art, Karen Foxlee has crafted a beautifully written story of adventure, friendship, magic, and danger for middle grade readers. Ophelia is an asthmatic, underdog hero who must rescue a magical boy and help him find a sword to defeat the evil Snow Queen once and for all.
Summary: This is the story of unlikely heroine Ophelia Jane Worthington-Whittard who 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 about the power of friendship, courage and love, and never ever giving up.
Although the publisher has rightly targeted this chapter book at ages 8-12, the narrative style feels better suited for older, more confident readers. Foxlee's magical adventure requires a reader who can appreciate the imagery and what I can only describe as an original "Brothers Grimm"-type feel. This story might actually make a really good read-aloud or bedtime story, too. You can view a sneak peak on Penguin Random House's website.
Personally, I would have liked to see this story written for an older audience, with thrills and chills to amp up the plot. The Snow Queen is a frightening villain (as scary as middle grade will allow without actually scaring anyone). The writing style certainly translates for a well-read audience who can appreciate the narrative.
Content-wise, this is a clean read. There are no frightening scenes or objectionable language to upset the target audience. Frozen fans might appreciate hearing a story about the original fairy tale that inspired Disney's multi-million dollar success.
All in all, this is a beautifully written book with lessons about being brave and not putting vanity above all else (Ophelia's sister, and countless other girls, were captured by the Snow Queen because of this weakness). With plenty of starred reviews to back it, Ophelia and the Marvelous Boy is a great choice for confident readers who love fairy tales and magical adventures.