Ophelia and the Marvellous Boy by Karen Foxlee
Knopf Books for Young Readers, 2014. ISBN 9780385753548.
Highly recommended for readers from 8-12 and classes from Year 4-6. Themes: Resilience, Fairy tales - retelling, Grief, Magic, Adventure. Karen Foxlee's novel for readers aged from 8-12 is a rich, imaginative retelling of Andersen's The Snow Queen. The Marvellous Boy is a ten year old child who has been frozen in time by wizards, who take his name and make him eternally young. After being the much-loved friend of the King for years, he is locked away in a bare room by the wicked new Queen. The whole land is frozen under her evil magical spell and time is desperately running out to save the boy's life.
A rescuer is needed and she arrives three days before Christmas. Ophelia Jane Worthington-Whittard is a curious eleven year old girl who thinks scientifically, doesn't believe in magic and is struggling to cope with the loss of her mother. When her father takes a job organising a collection of old swords in the palace museum Ophelia sets out to explore the strange and exotic rooms filled with dinosaurs, dresses, teapots, lost spoons, relics and paintings. Meanwhile the Queen takes her older sister Alice and is preparing her for an unfortunate fate.
Ophelia has an inner strength. Although outwardly messy, reliant on her asthma's inhaler, uncaring about her dishevelled appearance, she questions everything she is told. At first she doesn't believe the boy's story and is unwilling to save him; when belief and circumstances change she begins the race against time to find the hidden sword and free the boy.
Each chapter begins with a trope that tells of the exciting adventures ahead. Karen Foxlee's lyrical style of writing, depth of descriptive imagery and relatable main character make this a wonderful story for a class novel, for sharing at home or for readers who love fantasy and adventure. Personally it was a book I loved reading and will promote at school.