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The Real Boy

3.98  ·  Rating Details  ·  4,454 Ratings  ·  527 Reviews
On an island on the edge of an immense sea there is a city, a forest, and a boy. The city is called Asteri, a perfect city saved by the magic woven into its walls when a devastating plague swept through the world 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 ...more
Hardcover, 348 pages
Published September 24th 2013 by Walden Pond Press
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Orinoco Womble (tidy bag and all) Read the blurb, up there under the title. There's no point in cutting-and-pasting it for's already there.
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 Danielle The Book Huntress (Self-Proclaimed Book Ninja)
I had to put a lot of thought into this review. Anne Ursu has done that to me with her last two books. I enjoyed her Cronus Chronicles series and it was novel in that it presents a family with people of mixed racial heritage in a very normal, everyday fashion, and I loved that about the books. Plus, it was just plain fun Greek Mythology fantasy with a spunky heroine and her good natured cousin along for the ride.

With Breadcrumbs, she gave us a young girl who touched me deeply. Her internal life
Nov 16, 2013 Emrys rated it it was ok
Moments of great prose, and a fabulous finish that touched everything together into a very topical allegory with themes about the greed of the wealthy, and the potential to lose humanity through the pursuit of perfection.

With that acknowledged, I have a lot of misgivings about this book. These misgivings contain SPOILERS. It started off fine enough, with a simple setting of light fantasy with little emphasis on world-building. For the about the first 150 pages the book is completely about Oscar
Mar 31, 2015 R.J. rated it really liked it
A lovely, lyrical tale, alternately heart-warming and heart-rending, this book tackles some deep and thorny issues (autism, abuse, overconsumption, hedonism and exploitation of the poor by the rich among them) without bogging down or losing the fantasy-mystery plot. There's some beautiful language here, yet the narrative voice is perfectly suited to the timid, awkward eleven-year-old boy MC. And I loved that all the characters were clearly described from the outset as having dark olive-toned ski ...more
A beautiful story about friendship and honor in the face of betrayal and danger, The Real Boy is one of the best MG novels I've read this year. Anne Ursu brilliantly weaves classic fantasy tropes into a fresh new story. A must-read.
While fantasy is not my preferred genre, I can't deny the flow, beauty, and simplicity of Anne Ursu's writing. The symbolism of Oscar's journey in discovering his own humanness was very real despite the fantastical setting. While Ursu herself has said that the main character of Oscar is not her son, it is clear Oscar's struggles are inspired by the fact that her own son is living with Asperger's, which is made further evident when you notice that the book is dedicated to him.

And even though fant
My two-year-old is dealing with the concept of personhood. Lately she's taken to proclaiming proudly "I'm a person!" when she has successfully mastered something. By the same token, failure to accomplish even the most mundane task is met with a dejected, "I'm not a person". This notion of personhood and what it takes to either be a person or not a person reminded me a fair amount of Anne Ursu's latest middle grade novel The Real Boy. There aren't many children's books that dare to delve into the ...more
Barb Middleton
Jun 23, 2013 Barb Middleton rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fantasy, fairy-tale
When an author takes common fantasy tropes and conventions, flips them on their heads, then tosses in fairy-tale twists creating a new race of beings, take notice. This is the best middle grade fantasy story I've read in 2014. The unpredictable plot, emotional arc of the protagonist, layered themes, gorgeous writing, and excellent pacing blurred my expectation of how a typical fantasy story plays out. Scattered throughout my writing notes are lines, "Oh, oh, oh! I did not see that coming!" or "g ...more
Ms. Yingling
Oscar is the downtrodden assistant of the only magician left in the Barrow, the lower class but magical market town for the shining city of Asteri. He is abused by the apprentice, Wolf, until Wolf is brutally murdered in the forest. Caleb has magical business on the Continent, so leaves Oscar to run the shop, with few instructions. Since Oscar usually collects and processes the herbs used in the spells for sale, he doesn't do well dealing with customers. Luckily, the apprentice of the healer see ...more
Tj Shay
Mar 26, 2014 Tj Shay rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
While reading, "The Real Boy," there were times I was struck by a sentence & how perfect it was. Good authors do that.

"Eventually, sleep reach its tentacles out and pulled him close."
"It was like Callie covered her meaning in cushions and invited people to settle back into them."
"There is a way the truth hits you, both hard & gentle at the same time. It punches you in the stomach as it puts its loving arm around your shoulder."

I loved this story so much. It's not what I would typically
Mar 30, 2014 Miss rated it really liked it
ugh this is so GOOD

i hadn't read the summary because i'd read breadcrumbs and adored it so all i had to hear was that anne ursu had written another fantasy novel and i was there

this is a book about oscar, a magician's hand. oscar finds people difficult. he prefers to stay in his cellar with his cats, preparing the herbs his master uses in his concoctions. he's basically happy with this life with the exception of having to deal with the magician's apprentice, wolf, whose name is a pretty fair des
May 31, 2014 Karen rated it liked it
This is a strong middle grade fantasy with a well-developed world and a unique story. It's rich with ideas about social privilege and revisionist history, and I liked that the main character, Oscar, had some challenges relating to people. He has characteristics of someone on the Autism spectrum, but this being a fantasy, it's never put in those terms. (I personally related to him because whatever dramatic things happened in the story, he would really rather be in his quiet room hanging out with ...more
The Styling Librarian
The Real Boy by Anne Ursu – The Real Boy by Anne Ursu – Audiobook- Decided to enjoy a reread of this book, beautiful treasure, glad I entered Anne Ursu’s world again, pretty incredible.
Note- normally I don’t post about advanced reader copies of books but I don’t want to overlook the opportunity to share about this brilliant book- date out: September 24th, 2013. Wow, I was quite surprised to find a connection between this fantastic new book and an audiobook I just completed. What a world Anne Ur
Brandy Painter
Originally posted here at Random Musings of a Bibliophile.

I actually never read a synopsis for The Real Boy by Anne Ursu. I knew she wrote it and I liked Breadcrumbs (my thoughts) and that was all I needed. When I saw it was available on Edelweiss I immediately requested it and was thrilled to be approved. I had expectations in my head based on the title. And the book was something else entirely. Something wonderful

Oscar is a wonderful protagonist, endearing and lovable. He made the mother in me
Dec 04, 2013 Liviania rated it really liked it
I think I have a weakness for stories about magician's apprentices. Not that Oscar is a real apprentice. He works in the basement of a magic shop, chopping and storing herbs, and other menial work. He knows herbs and cats, but not people.

Then Oscar is thrust into the task of running the shop by himself, interacting with patrons and offering the right bit of magic to solve their problems. It's not his strong suit. Luckily, a fellow apprentice, Callie, agrees to help him understand people and run
Oscar, the title character, is a hand, a step below an apprentice, to the most powerful magician in this fantasy setting. It is Oscar’s job to collect and combine the herbs that his Master and apprentice sell. He is told he is worthless, doesn’t know anything by many characters and he's come to internalize it. It is Oscar’s hero’s journey, and ours, to discover just how much he knows and is capable of.

What’s fascinating and very well done about this novel to me is that Oscar is clearly on the a
Carina Olsen
Jul 13, 2013 Carina Olsen rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I love pretty books. And when I saw the cover for The Real Boy I knew I had to read this book. So I requested it via Edelweiss, and I was so happy to get accepted for. I have now read it, and I'm glad I did. It's an amazing middle grade book. The story is so good and I loved the main character, Oscar. He was adorable.

I'm rating this book a four star. Because while it was totally amazing after about half the book, I did struggle a bit with it in the beginning. But still. It was awesome. And I enj
Vidal Ovando
Jan 13, 2016 Vidal Ovando rated it it was amazing
Jan 28, 2014 Nick rated it it was amazing
I don't know what it was about this book that felt so special to me but I'm glad I found it. This is one of the few books that made me cry(among The Book Thief, The Fault in Our Stars, Looking for Alaska, Harry Potter 6-7, and Wonder-all great books:)) The main character goes through soooo many discoveries about himself and who he is that it is just remarkable! The elements of light, darkness, and hope intermingle to create a spellbinding story that you may be able to read in one sitting. I RECO ...more
Mar 18, 2015 Suzanne rated it really liked it
The Real Boy is part Pinocchio, part Harry Potter, and all beautiful writing.

This is the magical story of Oscar, a real boy, who is not sure who or what he is, but he's willing to learn. Oscar grows up as the helper to a Magician. He is unsure of where he came from and uncomfortable around people, but he does well with animals and plants. Is he a wooden boy made of magical wood, or is he a real boy? Oscar learns that magic does not all come from a magician and magic is not always good. Sometimes
E.S. Wesley
Aug 14, 2015 E.S. Wesley rated it it was amazing
The Real Boy by Anne Ursu really hits hard for a middle grade novel. It's a story about a boy who's sure he doesn't work right, who believes he's broken and doesn't belong (sounds like another of Ursu's books, Breadcrumbs), and who's okay with that. Which makes for a great tale.

The protagonist, Oscar, is the most engaging part of this story. I don't want to spoil anything for you, but The Real Boy's Oscar has a unique perspective of the world that makes you root for him more than most characters
Jan 03, 2015 Abby rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: kids, audiobooks
Although the writing was beautiful at times and the overall themes had great potential, the execution of this book was extremely disappointing and boring. I would never suggest this to a student because I doubt he would find any of it interesting enough to hold his attention.
Aug 21, 2015 Kris rated it liked it
Some worthwhile messages and a unique setting, but Oscar as a character didn't really go anywhere. Plus various plot elements were picked up and put down randomly, or cast aside altogether.

One of the more interesting children's books I've read in a while. A quick read. I knew Oscar was autistic before I got 50 pages in. But, at the risk of sounding bigoted, that perspective got old after a while. I expected Ursu to develop his abilities or his strengths, but there was no payoff in the end.

This r
K.L. Hallam
May 20, 2015 K.L. Hallam rated it it was amazing
So much to love in this book. It had me filled with goosebumps throughout. And I particularly loved the natural healing aspect as I have a herbalist certificate.
One of my favorite paragraphs, and I think it has relevance to how people often look outside, instead of within, to their own voice and heart, seeking soothsayers and fortunetellers.

p. 215: "Malcome had an odd look. "I'm sorry. I know this is hard. Magic is not ours to use, my boy. We think it serves us, but that is only magic playing
Lacey Louwagie
I liked this book even better than Ursu's critically acclaimed Breadcrumbs, which was a pleasant surprise, especially since the source material (Pinnochio) is less appealing than The Snow Queen was.

Although I shelved this book with "retellings," it's really more of an "inspired by" book. There are definitely allusions to Pinnochio, including the title and subtle imagery throughout the book, but it also stands completely on its own as a fantasy novel. The worldbuilding is just complex enough with
Kat Heckenbach
Nov 17, 2015 Kat Heckenbach rated it it was amazing
I love when I get to write reviews like this. I feel like I've gotten to be such a stickler about YA and MG books lately. This book exceeded all my expectations.

Oscar is a magician's hand. Not an apprentice, because he can't do magic himself, but the one who gathers the herbs and prepares them in his little room in the cellar. Oscar is shy, unsure of himself, unaware of his past, and much prefers the company of his cats (whom he understands) to people (whom he does not).

Yes, I believe as other r
Dec 17, 2013 Terri rated it really liked it
I was a little hesitant to read Anne Ursu's "The Real Boy," as I was not a big fan of "Breadcrumbs" and am not a fan in general of fantasy. However, this was a pleasant surprise.

Ursu does an exquisite job of world building in "The Real Boy." The complex setting is beautifully rendered and almost becomes a character in the story. The protagonist, Owen, has lived on a magical island in The Barrow Village near the city of Asteri, which is surrounded by the Plaguelands, for most of his life. He rem
Sara Grochowski
Anne Ursu, beloved author of Breadcrumbs, gives readers another magical tale of adventure and heart with The Real Boy.

Oscar is the shop boy to the most powerful magician in the Barrow, an ancient forest that surrounds a perfect city that was once almost decimated by a plague decades before. Oscar, who was brought to the Barrow from a far away land devoid of magic, spends his days gathering and preparing ingredients for the magician's potions and spells, avoiding the magician's assistant, a bull
Sep 28, 2013 Jill rated it really liked it
By the time I got to page 15, I had a problem. I knew I was so hopelessly in love with this book that I couldn’t bear to read any more, because then it would be over, but I also couldn’t bear to stop reading, because I wanted to be immersed in this magical world created by Ursu! Needless to say, I felt compelled to continue on....

This is the story of an eleven-year-old boy, Oscar, who has been told he is nothing his whole life, and now he believes it. He works as a helper to a magician in a worl
Review copy ARC from Edelweiss

After reading Anne Ursu's beautiful book Breadcrumbs, I was very excited to have access to The Real Boy. I was not disappointed. Ursu pulled me right into the Barrow. She built a magical world that welcomes readers in and invites them to stay. You can slip away to this land with the Shining People, magic smiths, and a sinister forest.

Ursu has a sly humor that is evident within the first pages, such as in the line "The apprentice's name was Wolf, because sometimes th
Sep 23, 2013 Tasha rated it it was amazing
Shelves: childrens-books
The author of Breadcrumbs has returned with another beautiful fairy tale. Oscar was taken in by the last known magician, Master Caleb, and in return works for him as his hand. That means that Oscar manages the harvesting and preparation of the many herbs and plants Master Caleb uses in his magic. Oscar is very happy with his life below the shop, accompanied only by the cats that live there too. The only problem is Wolf, Master Caleb’s apprentice, who brutally teases Oscar any chance he gets. But ...more
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Mock Newbery 2017: October Read - The Real Boy 11 137 Oct 28, 2013 08:09PM  
Goodreads Librari...: ISBN 978-0-06-201507-5 3 13 Oct 19, 2013 10:34PM  
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Anne Ursu's most recent book is BREADCRUMBS (HarperCollins/Walden Pond Press), a modern–day fairy tale for middle grade readers. Inspired by Hans Christian Andersen's "The Snow Queen," BREADCRUMBS is a story of a Minneapolis girl who follows her best friend into a strange fairy-tale woods, and discovers there that fantasy is no escape.

Anne is also the author of the Cronus Chronicles (Atheneum), a
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“I think if you'll look around, my boy,' he said gently, 'you'll find that no one is quite right. But we all do the best we can.” 6 likes
“There is a way the truth hits you, both hard and gentle at the same time. It punches you in the stomach as it puts its loving arm around your shoulder. Yes, I am terrible to behold, the truth says. But you suspected it all along, didn't you? And isn't better, now that you know? Now, at least, it all makes sense.” 4 likes
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