Ophelia and the Marvellous Boy by Karen Foxlee

At last. A book that literally sings with magic: Karen Foxlee’s effortlessly beautiful Ophelia and the Marvellous Boy (for 8-12 years). Jenny Davies, bookseller and blogger extraordinaire, recommended the book to Moontrug and it is all kinds of wonderful…

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Ophelia Jane Worthington-Whittard doesn’t believe in anything that can’t be proven by science. When her father takes a job in a strange museum in a city where it never stops snowing, Ophelia discovers a boy locked away in a forgotten room. He is prisoner of Her Majesty, The Snow Queen, and he has been waiting a long time for Ophelia’s help. As Ophelia embarks on an incredible adventure to rescue the boy, everything she believes is tested. Along the way she learns more and more about the boy’s own remarkable journey to reach and save the world. A story within a story, this modern-day fairytale is about the power of friendship, courage and love – and the importance of never giving up.

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The heroine of the book, Ophelia, is absolutely wonderful: asthmatic (simply adorable when she takes a puff of her inhaler to give her strength before each ordeal), fond of tugging down on her pig-tails when things get tricky and the kind of girl who would like very much to see dinosaurs rather than dresses. She is delightfully curious and although she belongs to the Children’s Science Society of Greater London which places importance on fact and truth, Ophelia realises that possibly, just possibly, magic is real after all. She may start the book with sentences like ‘I am from the kingdom Animalia, phylum Chordata… I don’t believe in unicorns or dragons’ but when she meets the Marvellous Boy the world as she knows it starts to change.

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The Marvellous Boy’s world – of snow leopards, Misery Birds, stolen names and Wintertide clocks – is dripping with magic and within the confines of a seemingly ordinary museum, Foxlee manages to conjure up a very rare, very special story. The imaginative scope of the book is vast and the writing so full of charm: ‘Ophelia was surprised by how easily she lied. She had two stolen keys in her pocket, and the lies were sliding off her tongue. Soon she’d probably be shoplifting. She expected that was how it started’ and ‘The trouble with magic was that it was messy and dangerous and filled with longing.’ The evil of the Snow Queen is desperate, and the story is at times as dark as the Grimm Tales, but set against this you have such an overwhelming sense of hope – championed by Ophelia and the Marvellous Boy – and wisdom, like the words below, from the Wizards:

Be kind to everyone whom you meet along the way, and things will be well.
Kindness is far stronger than any cruelty.
Always extend your hand in friendship.
Be patient.
You may feel alone, but there will always be people who will help you along the way.
Never, ever give up.