Ophelia and the Marvelous Boy

Book review by
Sally Engelfried, Common Sense Media
Ophelia and the Marvelous Boy Book Poster Image
Timid girl becomes hero in brisk "Snow Queen" update.

Parents say

age 9+
Based on 2 reviews

Kids say

No reviews yetAdd your rating

Did this review miss something on diversity?

Research shows a connection between kids' healthy self-esteem and positive, diverse representations in books, TV shows, and movies. Want to help us help them? Suggest a diversity update

A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this book.

Educational Value

Ophelia and the Marvelous Boy is set in a museum, but the fantasy nature of the story prevents readers from learning much about the many exhibits mentioned. Still, Ophelia's careful attention to logic and breaking tasks down step by step is a lesson in how to face difficult challenges.

Positive Messages

Don't be afraid to listen to your heart, even if it defies logic. It's better to feel sadness than to pretend you feel nothing. Kindness is more powerful than cruelty.

Positive Role Models & Representations

Ophelia doesn't think of herself as a hero. She's small and asthmatic and a proud member of the Children's Science Society of Greater London who believes everything in the world can be classified scientifically. However, when presented with the challenge of rescuing the Marvelous Boy, who is danger of being killed by the Snow Queen, Ophelia finds the strength to face monsters and evil people and to use both her intelligence and heart to figure out the best way to free him.

Violence & Scariness

The Snow Queen has a machine that she puts young girls into that extracts their souls and turns them into ghosts, and Ophelia's sister almost gets caught in it. Ophelia is scratched by a magical snow leopard and must face flesh-eating birds and various museum exhibits that come to life and threaten her. She also has a sword fight with the Snow Queen. Though Ophelia's not unafraid in these situations, bad outcomes are ultimately evaded through her bravery and cleverness.


What parents need to know

Parents need to know that Ophelia and the Marvelous Boy is a modern-day version of Hans Christian Andersen's "The Snow Queen." It features a heroine, Ophelia, whose mother recently died and whose family is still having a hard time adjusting to her absence. Ophelia's father and sister are emotionally distant, and Ophelia is left to deal with her loss on her own. Ophelia faces scary situations such as talking to ghosts, dealing with flesh-eating "misery birds," and facing museum exhibits that come to life. When Ophelia goes to her father and sister to tell them of the dangers she's facing, they don't believe her, and both succumb to the charms of a woman whom Ophelia feels sure is up to no good.

User Reviews

  • Parents say
  • Kids say
Parent Written bygrandmareader December 18, 2018

A "Snow Queen" Fairytale with a Dark Feel and Strong Main Character

I really liked the character of Ophelia who worked on herself to be brave. She, her sister, and their father are still reeling from the recent death of the moth... Continue reading
Adult Written bymiddlegradeparent December 27, 2015

Beautifully Written Book with a Good Message

I just finished reading this to my daughters, ages 7 and 10. The thing that struck me the most was how strong the writing is. I think hearing good writing is a... Continue reading

There aren't any reviews yet. Be the first to review this title.

What's the story?

Ophelia, her father, and her sister are feeling lost after the death of Ophelia's mother only three months earlier. When her father takes a job as curator of a sword exhibit in an unnamed, foreign snowy city, Ophelia is left on her own to explore the vast museum. She immediately discovers the Marvelous Boy locked away in a little room and reluctantly accepts the task of rescuing him and thus preventing the end of the world. Each time she sees the boy, he tells a little bit more of the tale of how he came to be captured by the Snow Queen. The story within a story inspires Ophelia to be braver than she thinks she is, and the dangers she faces help her overcome her reluctance to believe in anything that cannot be scientifically proven. Her adventures finally bring her back to her family and help remind all of them that love is the greatest power.

Is it any good?

Despite her own lack of faith in her bravery, Ophelia is immensely likable, and readers of OPHELIA AND THE MARVELOUS BOY will have no trouble believing in her even when she doubts herself. Her quest moves along at a brisk pace, the tension increased by the huge clock counting down the hours before the end of the world. Although the Marvelous Boy's fairy tale-like origin story is less exciting than Ophelia's, it adds the necessary magical element that helps Ophelia learn to follow her heart and live with her loss. 

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about how Ophelia and the Marvelous Boy has fairy-tale elements but takes place in the real world. Is this more appealing to you than classic fairy tales that take place in a magical land? Why?


  • Do you see any similarities between Ophelia and the Marvelous Boy and the movie Frozen, which was also (loosely) inspired by Hans Christian Andersen's "The Snow Queen"? What are the main differences?

  • Have you ever had a bad feeling about a grown-up like Ophelia does about Miss Kaminski? What did you do about it?

Book details

  • Author: Karen Foxlee
  • Genre: Fantasy
  • Topics: Magic and Fantasy, Fairy Tales
  • Book type: Fiction
  • Publisher: Knopf
  • Publication date: January 28, 2014
  • Publisher's recommended age(s): 8 - 12
  • Number of pages: 240
  • Available on: Nook, Audiobook (unabridged), Hardback, iBooks, Kindle
  • Last updated: June 19, 2019

Our editors recommend

For kids who love fairy tales

Themes & Topics

Browse titles with similar subject matter.

Top advice and articles

Common Sense Media's unbiased ratings are created by expert reviewers and aren't influenced by the product's creators or by any of our funders, affiliates, or partners.

See how we rate

About these links

Common Sense Media, a nonprofit organization, earns a small affiliate fee from Amazon or iTunes when you use our links to make a purchase. Thank you for your support.

Read more

Our ratings are based on child development best practices. We display the minimum age for which content is developmentally appropriate. The star rating reflects overall quality.

Learn how we rate