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*Ophelia and the Marvelous Boy* by Karen Foxlee - middle grades book review
Also by Karen Foxlee:

The Anatomy of Wings
Ophelia and the Marvelous Boy
by Karen Foxlee
Ages 8-12 320 pages Harpercollins April 2015 Paperback    

Ophelia and the Marvelous Boy is an adaptation of the classic fairytale "The Snow Queen." But it's more than merely an adaptation; it’s a humorous story that explores the joy of storytelling and history. This is a novel that kids who love history, storytelling, and literary playfulness will like.

Much of the fun is in the telling--the joy of playing with words, narration, and characterization. The events of the story take place in the past and the present. In the past, the Snow Queen locks up a little boy. The boy has been chosen by the wizard elders to battle the Snow Queen, a woman who feeds on sadness and who can be detected because she smells vaguely like chocolate.

The boy, however, is not successful in finding and conquering the evil villainess. He ends up being locked up for 300 years. He doesn’t know his name because it was stolen from him for safekeeping by the wizards. He remains locked up--unaging--until he meets scientific-minded Ophelia. He asks her to free him and, more importantly, to save the world.

Being locked up in a museum is scary; being asked to find secret relics to save a magical boy one doesn't quite believe in is even scarier. As she searches the museum, Ophelia begins to understand the difference between science as a tool for investigation and science as a “belief system." As Ophelia sets about using science to understand, categorize, and decipher the magical, unexplainable things in the world, the author honors both the power and limits of science.

Although the story touches on the different kinds of knowledge--wisdom via scientific books or oral stories or anecdotes or remembered words or even one's own surmisings--the book is funny and deadpan quirky. The heroine is so stressed, afraid, and annoyed to be pulled into having to deal with magic and world-saving. The hero is melancholy, patient, insecure, and introspective.

The vocabulary is not difficult. Most middle-schoolers will understand it. But there are some specialized words that some readers might have to look up if they are not history buffs Highly recommended for all ages, especially those who loves fairytale adaptations.
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