Published by Walden Pond Press on September 24th 2013
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From Anne Ursu, the author of one of the most widely acclaimed middle-grade novels in recent memory, comes a new fairy-tale adventure of magic and friendship.
On an island at the edge of an immense sea there is a city, a forest, and a boy. The city is called Asteri, a perfect city that was saved by the magic woven into its walls from a devastating plague that swept through the world over a hundred years before. The forest is called the Barrow, a vast wood of ancient trees that encircles the city and feeds the earth with magic. And the boy is called Oscar, a shop boy for the most powerful magician in the Barrow. Oscar spends his days in a small room in the dark cellar of his master's shop grinding herbs and dreaming of the wizards who once lived on the island generations ago. Oscar's world is small, but he likes it that way. The real world is vast, strange, and unpredictable. And Oscar does not quite fit in.
But it's been a long time since anyone who could call himself a wizard walked the world, and now that world is changing. Children in the city are falling ill and something sinister lurks in the forest. Oscar has been content to stay in his small room in the cellar, comforted in the knowledge that the magic that flows from the trees will keep his island safe. Now, even magic may not be enough to save it...
The Real Boy takes a wonderful new look at the story of Pinnocchio, but set in it’s own world with characters that made me fall in love with the book from page one. Oscar does not remember much before he started working for a wizard, grinding herbs and sneaking into the library late at night to learn more about them. The actual magician’s assistant is a somewhat cruel boy who goes out of his way to make Oscar miserable, but all in all he is happy with his life.
Until one day, he is left all by himself to tend the story, after a terrible accident. Being awkward and strange to others, he finds that he would like nothing better than for life to go back to the mindless happiness of herbs and late night library visits. With the help of the healer’s assistant Callie, he finds himself helping her try to find out what is making the children in the city sick.
The situations throughout the book really show Oscar’s ability to be more than he is even before he can believe it himself. I loved Oscar’s character and how he develops throughout the book – it’s nice to see through his eyes the story as it develops, as he tries to figure out who he really is and more importantly, who he wants to be. I love seeing characters transform, especially in children’s literature and I found myself rooting for Oscar the whole way through.
Final Verdict: Anne Ursu writes the best fantasy books and I have to say that The Real Boy will be soon on the shelves of my own school library and I will be pushing it into the hands of students who love fairy tales. The Real Boy is a book that you will not want to miss out on!
Check out the other stops on the Real Boy Blog Tour over at the Walden Pond Press website.