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The Real Boy

3.97  ·  Rating details ·  6,076 ratings  ·  682 reviews
National Book Award Longlist * Bank Street Children's Book Committee Best Book of the Year

"Beautifully written and elegantly structured, this fantasy is as real as it gets."—Franny Billingsley, author of Chime

The Real Boy, Anne Ursu's follow-up to her widely acclaimed and beloved middle grade fantasy Breadcrumbs, is a spellbinding tale of the power we all wield, great and
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 you...it's already there.…moreRead the blurb, up there under the title. There's no point in cutting-and-pasting it for you...it's already there.(less)

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Average rating 3.97  · 
Rating details
 ·  6,076 ratings  ·  682 reviews

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 Danielle The Book Huntress
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 14, 2013 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
Nov 13, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Amendment: I happened upon another (4-star) review of this and got to thinking. It is true that this book is a bit of a challenge. I can almost see why some think it a 'drag.' But as that other reviewer implied, all readers need their own books. And that goes double for children. Reluctant readers shouldn't have to resort to Leveled Readers or Wimpy Kid, and advanced readers shouldn't have to resort to books that are meant for older children.
I'm torn. Do I read it again immediately, or w
Mar 08, 2015 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
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
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. ...more
Jun 14, 2019 rated it really liked it
Shelves: middle-grade
[4.5 Stars]
Wendy Bunnell
Mar 29, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Read it with my 11-year-old son, and we both loved it. Oscar was completely relatable to my son on the spectrum, as he could identify with Oscar's struggles to understand other people, to fit in to the world. And he particularly loved all references to The Most Spectacular Goat.

We will definitely read more from this author.
Barb Middleton
Jun 23, 2013 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
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
Tj Shay
Jul 03, 2013 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 read, w
Nicole M. Hewitt
This review and many more can be found on my blog: Feed Your Fiction Addiction

This unique middle grade fantasy is about a boy on the spectrum who’s plunged into a role he’s not quite sure he wants to take on when his mentor disappears and leaves him in charge of his magic shop. I loved Oscar as a character. I believe that Ursu did a wonderful job capturing the way that he thinks—how he doesn’t quite understand the world the way everyone else does and has to spend extra time parsing out basic thi
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
Miss Susan
Mar 30, 2014 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
"My boy, you cannot look to magic to solve all your problems. Magic is big and beautiful and terrible. The wizards understood, but no one else understands anymore. People treat it like some cheap little thing, a commodity that serves at their pleasure. Magic serves no one's pleasure but its own."

This book was definitely something special. I picked it up because I read Anne Ursu's Breadcrumbs in February and absolutely loved it, so I knew I had to read more of her writing. And I'm so glad I did
Jan 30, 2014 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
Jul 07, 2013 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.
Orphaned Oscar works as a hand - a sort of scullery maid / under-apprentice - for the magician Caleb in this engaging, thought-provoking middle-grade fantasy from Anne Ursu. Far from the prying eyes of the residents of Barrow Village, or the Shining People from the City of Asteri, he gathers herbs and other plants from Caleb's gardens in the nearby forest, and prepares them in Caleb's cellar. Oscar likes set routines, and has difficulty interacting with people and interpreting their words and ac ...more
A.R. Thompson
Oct 26, 2019 rated it liked it
Oscar lives in the cellar.

Oscar's friends are the cats.

Oscar grinds plants for the spells of the greatest magic smith of the time, a man so great he calls himself a magician.

For almost as long as Oscar can remember, he's worked as Master Caleb's hand. Before that is all dark shadows the color of old bruises and hand forcing his chin up and voices saying, Look me in the eye, boy, so he doesn't think of it often. Instead he works hard grinding plants, collecting plants, cataloging plants, so that
Feb 28, 2021 rated it it was amazing
But the water was holding Oscar close and telling him beautiful lies, and since it was the end, he chose to believe them.

Wow. I . . . was not expecting this book to twist my heart the way that it did. I read Ursu's Breadcrumbs last year, and while I liked it, it didn't become a favorite. I definitely wasn't predicting that I would end up loving this one instead.

But what can I say? Ursu's style in this book is reminiscent of Kate DiCamillo's in The Tale of Despereaux or The Miraculous
Feb 09, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Had this just been a retelling of a beloved tale, I'd have been perfectly content. There's a new setting, a non-white, non-European cast, and a non-neurotypical lead. That would have been plenty, and I'd have been thrilled.

But then Ursu went and changed it up even more, took the story in an unexpected and much more adventurous direction, and gave me a story about kids who find their society lacking and act. This goes up there with Terry Pratchett's Nation, and Frances Hardinge's Lost Conspiracy
Carina Olsen
Jul 13, 2013 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
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
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
Dec 04, 2013 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
Dec 13, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favorites
Filled with magic, the book described a boy who was believed to be different. Magic was the only thing he knew and brought him comfort along with his cats. Oscar was a boy who tried to understand the expressions and emotions people made. And although magic was the cities friend, it was quite dangerous. In the book you will find the cons and pros about magic, about the uses of it. People may use it for their small needs, they may even use it for bigger ones. Some so dangerous the magic itself cou ...more
Vidal Ovando
Jan 13, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Beth Cato
Jul 16, 2017 rated it really liked it
I had heard of this book because of its favorable portrayal of an autistic lead character, and in that the book truly does shine. The Real Boy follows a maligned orphan (that great fantasy tradition) working as a hand, a sort of apprentice's apprentice. Oscar has a fantastic memory of herbs, their uses, and the functions of the garden, and rarely interacts with people. He can't meet their eyes or read their mannerisms; his herbs and companion cats--and the rare smuggled book--are his joys in lif ...more
Amy Layton
This was the most wonderful and (un)expected retelling of Pinocchio I've read.  Oscar has trouble acting the way that others do--he doesn't understand small talk, doesn't know how to infer from people's indirect questions.  But as his master is called away, he's left to run the magic shop, something hugely outside of his comfort zone. 

This retelling offers discussions surrounding on just what "real" is, the importance of the environment, and when it's best to let non-understanding to remain not
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Mock Newbery 2023: 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 is the author of several fantasies for young readers, including THE REAL BOY, which was longlisted for the National Book Award, and BREADCRUMBS, which was named as one of the best books of the year by Publishers Weekly, Amazon, and School Library Journal. She is also the recipient of a McKnight Fellowship. She teaches at the Hamline University's Masters of Fine Arts in Writing for Childr ...more

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