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Thursday, April 17, 2014

Ophelia and the Marvelous Boy, written by Karen Foxlee. Alfred A. Knopf, Random House. 2014. $18.99 ages 9 and up

"But if she retrieved the key for him, then she could at least say she had helped. She could probably find his name too. He probably hadn't even tried to think about it - really think, sit down with a freshly sharpened pencil and go through the alphabet, which would be the methodical, scientific thing to do. That was what you had to do in these sorts of situations."

Ophelia and her family are reeling from her mother's recent death. In an attempt to distract his daughters from the overpowering sadness of it, their father accepts an invitation to curate a new exhibit of swords to be opened just prior to Christmas. The museum is located in a 'foreign city' where it constantly snows. Aha! The first clue.

Her father and sister are busy; Ophelia is left to her own devices in exploring the many floors and exhibits housed in the strange and almost empty museum. It is through this wandering that she discovers a locked door and inside, a 'marvelous boy'. He explains that he has been locked away for more than three hundred years. He needs someone to help him escape; three days from now the spell that has protected him will end and the Snow Queen will kill him, turning everything to ice. Ophelia, scientific to the nth degree, has great difficulty in believing his fantastic tale.

While uneasy, she cannot just leave him there to die. So, she sets out to find the three keys he needs to defeat the Queen, and to search for the 'One Other' needed to bring the Queen's power to an end. As she ignores her father's instructions to remain with her sister, and to cease exploring on her own, the tension for readers builds. She visits various floors of the museum facing many terrifying creatures, encountering much danger, and performing daring deeds in an attempt to keep the Queen from succeeding in her quest.

The twists and turns in this engaging plot keep the reader moving forward with speed. Ms. Foxlee's
inspired retelling of the Snow Queen story has all of the elements of fairy tales, while also incorporating a young girl's journey from disbelief to bravery in the face of great odds. As Ophelia worries about her family and their troubles, she also finds the courage to do what needs to be done to help a new friend, and protect her family from the evil clutches of a formidable foe. Her mother's voice is a constant beacon of love and support as Ophelia deals with the many obstacles that she faces to do what is right.

Magical, mysterious and firmly steeped in praiseworthy storytelling, this new book by Karen Foxlee is sure to please her many fans and to garner new ones, myself included.

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