Welcome to the first installment of Brightly’s Book Club, where we encourage kids to read together, explore important topics through books, and have some fun! The idea of a book club is that everyone in the group reads the same book and then gathers together to discuss it and take part in book-themed activities. It’s a great way to get kids together and encourage a lifelong passion for books in your children. Now on to this month’s pick!
This Month’s Selection
Best For: Kids ages 8 – 12.
What It’s About: Ophelia’s father takes a job curating a major sword exhibit for a museum located in a faraway, snowy city. While he works to assemble the exhibition, Ophelia wanders around the vast museum. There, she discovers an imprisoned boy with no name, a prisoner of the Snow Queen. The Marvelous Boy, as he’s called, begs Ophelia to help him stop the Snow Queen before the museum’s Wintertide Clock chimes and the world ends. Ophelia doesn’t believe the Boy, or in things that can’t be proven by science, but despite her misgivings, she decides to help him on his quest. As she does, she confronts her sorrow over her mother’s death and starts to believe in unexplainable, sometimes dangerous, sometimes transformative magic.
Major Themes: Bravery, friendship, grief, perseverance, and love.
Why We Picked It: Not only is Ophelia and the Marvelous Boy a beautiful tribute to the original Snow Queen fairy tale, it’s an enchanting, well-written, action-packed, and touching story on its own. We love Ophelia — we admire how being small in stature doesn’t hold her back, how her determination triumphs over her fears, and how she faces sadness and danger with bravery and kindness. We also love how the author skillfully weaves two stories together, one of Ophelia’s emotional inner journey, and the other of her external journey to save the Boy.
A Word of Caution for Sensitive Readers: The book deals with the death of a parent, and features ghosts and haunted creatures.
Suggestions for Younger Readers: If your kids are too young to read Ophelia, check out these other wintery adventures:
What You’ll Need for Book Club
You’ll need the book, pencils, paper, winter-themed snacks, winter-themed decorations, and supplies for the craft activities.
- Make Snow Ice Cream.
- Set up a Hot Chocolate Bar.
- Don’t forget to add Grown-ups Hot Chocolate options such as Peppermint Schnapps or other liquors!
- Serve Winter Cupcakes and Cookies.
- Hang the 3D snowflakes that you make in the activities section below.
- Decorate with sparkly white Christmas lights — even better if they’re the icicle lights.
- On a blue plastic tablecloth, spray fake snow. Use this on the snack table.
- In a clear vase, add silver and blue Christmas balls and white branches. From the white branches, hang small snowflakes (see the tutorial here) or other winter decorations.
The Book Club Discussion
Set up the book club meeting for success. Encourage all opinions and a judgment-free discussion. Remind members to take turns speaking, and that when others are speaking, listening is respectful.
As you begin answering questions, it’s helpful to show your children that your answers are informed by information in the book. You might say, “I think XYZ because of the time that ABC happened.” Perhaps reference a specific page or passage.
Finally, to get all participants involved, download and print these questions and take turns reading them to the group.
- The author uses the number three frequently. When and why do you suppose that is?
- How are Ophelia and the Marvelous Boy similar and / or different?
- Names are important in this story. Why doesn’t Miss Kaminsky call Ophelia by the correct name? Why did the wizards take the Marvelous Boy’s name? Why are the swords named?
- What do you think the Marvelous Boy’s name is?
- Ophelia believes in science and plans, not magic. Why do you think this is? Does this change during the story? What do you believe?
- What are the signs that Alice is changing?
- Do you think it’s possible to hear the voice from a deceased loved one like Ophelia did with her mother?
- Did Ophelia become brave or was she always brave and just didn’t know it?
- What is the life advice Ophelia’s mother always told her? (Hint: tell the truth, …) Do you agree with this advice? Why or why not?
- Did you like this book overall? Why or why not?
Kick It Up a Notch
- Charades: Write each of the following Ophelia-related words on a piece of paper. Mix up and turn over so no one can see the words. Take turns acting out for the rest of your group to guess.
The Marvelous Boy
- Minute to Win It: List as many of the museum collections (categories or items) as you can in one minute. Whoever has the longest list wins!
- Riddles: The wizards talk in riddles, much to Ophelia’s annoyance. Can you solve the riddles here and here?
- Make a Winter Scene Snow Globe — either with water or without.
- Craft enormous 3D Snowflakes.
- Play with Homemade Snow Slime.
What to Read Next
1. Continue reading with the original fairy tale as well as books based on the original The Snow Queen story.
2. Read more about swords. Start with Swords by Ben Boos.
3. Read books similar to Ophelia with magical elements, a strong female protagonist, and adventurous storytelling.
Let us know what you think of Ophelia and the Marvelous Boy and share your own ideas for Book Club in the comments below!