Today, we have an awesome MMGM twofer: a guest post by Karen Foxlee, author of Ophelia and the Marvelous Boy, and a review of the book!
MMGM is a feature hosted by author Shannon Messenger on her blog every week!
Hardcover, 240 pages
Expected publication: January 28th 2014 by Knopf Books for Young Readers
Format reviewed: E-ARC via NetGalley
Synopsis via Goodreads:
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 is about the power of friendship, courage and love, and never ever giving up.
Eleven-year-old Ophelia Jane Worthington-Whittard is the last person that would imagine herself to be a heroine. She's logical. Scientific. But when she, her sister Alice and their father travel to a far-off and perpetually snowing city so he can curate an exhibition on swords, everything changes.
After wandering through the museum's seemingly endless number rooms, all with treasures beyond all imagination, Ophelia stumbles onto a boy being held prisoner in a cell. He tells Ophelia that he needs her help in beating the dangerous Snow Queen in a centuries old battle, and leads her on a quest around the museum that has Ophelia fighting off wolves, ghosts and other creatures beyond her wildest imagination.
Foxlee's first foray into middle grade fiction absolutely immersed me from the very first page. Stepping into Ophelia's world was like going backward in time, and revisiting that same sense of magic I felt when I first read The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe.
As practical-minded Ophelia goes from dubiously doubting the Marvelous Boy's story of magic, protection spells, wizards and giant owls - what would her fellow Children's Society members think? - to facing off with wolves and politely menacing guards who knit (!) in their spare time, Foxlee weaves a thoughtful, beautiful story on finding one's own personal bravery again, after losing the one person who was the the rock of your life.
Through the quest, the developing friendship between the Marvelous Boy and Ophelia, and the flashbacks to their respective backgrounds, Foxlee also wonderfully shows how even the most timid or unexpected of people can influence others to reexamine their own situations, biases and opinions for the better.
She also deftly uses the quest to remind Ophelia and readers of important life lessons like fact that appearances aren't always representative of one's true nature, and it's their heart that matters above all else. Or the overarching idea that you are never alone. There are always friends, family and those who will take your side.
While Foxlee's novel is a brisk 240 pages, the story definitely felt longer, in the best way possible. I loved watching Ophelia, the Marvelous Boy and her family grow and change during their tenure at the museum, and only wish the book could have been longer!
Of special note: Throughout the book, I was deeply impressed with Foxlee's ability to tackle the subject of losing a parent. She's incredibly sensitive to the issue, but also doesn't patronize or take away from a younger character's ability to feel or work through those feelings of loss.
Educators and parents will likely appreciate Foxlee's overall message that yes, it's natural and absolutely okay to continue to mourn someone after they're gone. But it's also equally important to take the best part of their memories and influences, and apply those lessons to one's own life. Learning from the memories of others is in many ways, the best way to keep their memories alive.
I highly recommend Ophelia for fans of MG books, especially for readers who are looking for a story which showcases the bravery, ingenuity and love that ordinary characters can display in the face of extraordinary circumstances. Ophelia will remind even the shyest or most reluctant of readers that there is magic in reading, which can easily translate to their own lives.
Disclaimer: I received an e-arc of Ophelia and the Marvelous Boy from Random House via NetGalley, in exchange for an honest review. Thank you!