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The Disapparation of James

3.50  ·  Rating details ·  347 ratings  ·  57 reviews
From the highly praised author of Spilling Clarence, a luminous novel about the joy of family and the perils of loving. The Woodrow family is going to the circus to celebrate Greta's seventh birthday. When five-year-old brother James eagerly volunteers to join the magic act, his parents watch with pride as he climbs onto the stage alongside the clown. The trick is spectacular and a ...more
Hardcover, 288 pages
Published January 8th 2003 by Hachette Books
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Average rating 3.50  · 
Rating details
 ·  347 ratings  ·  57 reviews

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Jun 02, 2016 rated it it was ok
First of all, oops. Unlike "Breadcrumbs" which led me to believe that something else by Ursu might be terrific, this is not a children's book. Second of all, wtf? I don't care how damn smart and lovely it is, it's still a horrible subject and to read about it is not in the least enriching. Not only was there no point or resolution, and so my time was wasted, but now my night is going to be spoilt w/ nightmares.

Still, it is beautifully written. My heart aches for some of the character
Aug 21, 2015 rated it it was ok
I picked up this book because of the word "Disapparation," not gonna lie. It was not, however, remotely connected to what that word means in the world of Harry Potter. At least not connected in any way that could be considered fun or whimsical or awesome. A much more accurate title might have been the Disappearance of James, but I would not have picked up that book, so marketing-wise, smart move.

I didn't love this book, and sometimes I was skimming through (super short chapters from
Feb 18, 2009 rated it liked it
I am hooked, I desperately want to know what happened to the child, but at the same time I cringe thinking about my own son disapparating ... I can't wait to keep reading!

Well, I was ultimately disappointed. While the emotions and reactions of the characters feel genuine and are explored with care and really good writing, I was too wrapped up in wanting answers to my questions and too disppointed when I didn't get them.

Ursu did a great job of exploring the emotions and reactions of
Nov 17, 2014 rated it did not like it
I feel cheated. I invested my good time in what I thought was a good book. The characters were engaging, the story riveting, and the plot moved well. But then.....I guess the author ran out of creativity. No explanation of what happened to the boy who disappeared and suddenly reappeared, with no knowledge of what happened to him. No ending. I loaned the book to a friend who almost de-friended me over it. She was just as upset at the ending as I was.
Sarah Pottenger
The kind of beautiful that hurts. One of my absolute favorites.

The story centers around a young family as they celebrate the daughter's seventh birthday at a stage circus. James, the five-year-old, is called up on stage to participate. The clown makes him disappear, literally, and he doesn't know how he did it. The scene between the daughter and the detective who stays with the family is amazing.
May 22, 2008 rated it it was amazing
I loved the last book I read by Ursu, Spilling Clarence... it really moved me. This one has confirmed her place in my list of favorite authors.

This wonderful novel walks a strangely beautiful line between tragedy and magical realism, with striking and profound results. A deeply insinuating story that mines the fears of parenting and being human to great, and ultimately celebratory, effect.
Dale Harcombe
Jan 19, 2013 rated it did not like it
Have you ever read a book that has you intrigued from the start and then you get to the end and feel like throwing it against a wall? That's how I felt after reading this book.The characters were well defined and the premise interesting but the ending was a cop out. Spoilt all the rest for me.
Jeanne Houde
Aug 16, 2018 rated it liked it
I was a bit ambivalent about this review. I kind of liked the book, but I didn't like the way it was laid out. I think they could have done without all the dream sequences etc. A chapter on what James was going through would have spiced it up though.
May 07, 2017 rated it really liked it
Shelves: robin-s-books
weird and wonderful story
Jan 28, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Engaging. Abstract.
Exceptionally smart.
Oct 04, 2012 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: read-in-2003
It is Greta Woodrow's seventh birthday and to celebrate she is at the Razzlers Circus Stage Show at the Lindbergh Performing Arts Center with her family -- her mother, Dr. Hannah Woodrow, a physician and the family breadwinner; and, her father, Justin Woodrow, a very content and competent stay-at-home Dad; and, her 5-year-old lovable brother James. Of the two orange-headed Woodrow children, Greta is the louder and far more agitated child, a difficult baby from birth, yet a smart little girl "sk ...more
Jan 22, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: novels
The disappearance or death of a child is quite literally a parent's worst nightmare, and there are countless thrillers revolving around such scenarios. Here, Ursu takes that nightmare and twists it just enough so that the focus is not on the hunt for the missing child, but on the effect on the parents and family. It's a clever way into the topic that neatly sidesteps the procedural plot points that dominate thrillers about the same topic, and allow for a much richer exploration of the psychology ...more
Armando Cruz
Sep 30, 2012 rated it really liked it
James Woodrow, the introvert youngest child of Justin and Hannah Woodrow, raises his hand when Mike the Clown asks for a volunteer in his closing magic trick. James comes up on stage and as Mike presents his ending spectacle, James disappears into thin air. POOF!

This is my first time to read Anne Ursu and I've got to admit that I was very much engrossed with it. She has this way of becoming very detail, but in the end it doesn't matter but it makes the emotion very much palpable. Thi
Mar 29, 2009 rated it really liked it
In the first chapter of this book, the youngest member of the Woodrow family--after Dad Justin, Mom Hannah, and big sister Greta--James volunteers as a stage volunteer for a clown's act as the circus, and, in the middle of the act, disappears. The clown has no explanation for the disappearance, and no evidence of a kidnapping exists. James is simply gone.

In the chapters that follow, Ursu follows each character as he or she deals with the after effects of James's disapparition. For th
Jul 28, 2013 rated it really liked it
First of all, I was surprised how difficult it was to find this 10-year-old, out-of-print book. Books do disappear.
Second, I think there might be a Harry Potter tie-in, as the word "disapparation" is from that series, but it escaped me.
On the Eve of 7-year-old Greta's birthday, the family of four attends a circus. 5-year-old James uncharacteristically volunteers to be part of the magician's act and, lo and behold, disappears. This book recounts the reactions of those around him--fami
Dec 01, 2013 rated it it was amazing
When a young boy disappears during a magic trick at the circus, everyone involved finds their lives drastically altered.Ursu masterfully gives us the perspectives of James' hurting parents, a copy assigned to guard their house, the boy's 7-year-old sister, the magician who doesn't know how he "lost" James, and others, all of whom lose trust that life can be trusted or they can ever feel safe.

I most appreciated Ursu's ability to get inside different characters' perspectives, probing h
Jun 30, 2008 rated it really liked it
" James has disappeared. This sort of thing happens in books all the time. Children disappear into thin air and end up in some other universe, some other dimension. There are tesseracts, tornadoes, and tears in time; there are looking glasses, magic wardrobes, enchanted castles, and rabbit holes. There are all kinds of places for a young boy to go to- there is Camelot, there is Narnia, there is Never-Never Land, there is Oz, there is Wonderland. There are lions, Cowardly and Christlike, there ar ...more
Nov 02, 2012 rated it liked it
A 3.5.

This was a reread for me. I read it probably 8 years ago. I liked it better this time I think. It tackles a tough topic of missing kids. Even though the reader knows that James truly disappears by magic, it is gut-wrenching to walk through the uncertainty with the family, to watch them all break in their own way.

On my first read I did not see a lot of similarity between this book and Ursu’s Spilling Clarence. However, on this read I see connections. Both are about extraordinar
Oct 17, 2007 rated it liked it
I see Anne Ursu's Shadow Thieves mentioned, so thought I'd add this one. It is not a sci fi book, but is quite clever. It is intense, and for a parent, perhaps a bit disturbing. I had a tough time reading every word, until I did the horrible thing and read the end. It is about a boy who disappears into thin air. Literally. And the trauma and disruption it causes.

I read it because not only is she a good Minnesotan, but I was acquainted with her brother a few years ago, AND my sister has a best-f
Jun 22, 2007 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This book isn't for everyone. I've talked to other people who complained that they wanted to know what happened and why. The reality of this book isn't what happened, but rather how people reacted to it. I think Ursu did an excellent job of dealing with the emotions of all the different characters to the "disapparation of James". The parents, the relatives, the people who became involved only because of circumstance. Each character has their own response and their own back-stories leading to the ...more
Feb 08, 2008 rated it liked it
This isn't a mystery destined to be solved at the book's close. It's a story about loss and grieving, and what really happened to James is beside the point. The other book I've read about the sudden loss of a child, McEwan's Child in Time, never resolves itself, either. Perhaps the message is that when it comes to horrible, inconsolable loss, what happened doesn't really matter; it happened, and it can't be changed, and the family is left to pick up the pieces.

Did I mention this book was seriously u
Sep 25, 2015 rated it did not like it
As I was reading this book I was really hooked on figuring out what happened to the kid but Ursu provides no explanations for the basis of the plot. I was thoroughly disappointed that I was left with more questions than when I began reading. All throughout the book there was very little action; most of the book was about the character development but I felt like the characters were fake and forced. Would not recommend
Jeanine Walker
Feb 27, 2010 rated it liked it
What can I say? Weird things happen. A boy disappears. It's sort of like that movie with Gweneth Paltrow where she does get into the subway, and then she doesn't. It's hard to tell what's real, except the message, if there is indeed a message, seems to be that "realitY" is much bigger than our eyes lead us to believe. I'm all for that message. Beautiful writing. Didn't go as much as I wanted it to. Missing the whatever big climax.
Kaethe Douglas
Jan 27, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: fiction
Familiar and yet completely different. Amazing. Really. Many writers have used the lost child plot. It's a pretty universal anxiety, shared by many who don't have and wouldn't want to have kids. Remember Baby Jessica? Ursu does something else. And as much as I love her books for younger readers The Shadow Thieves, I'd be thrilled to have her writing for adults again.
Maureen M
Sep 06, 2009 rated it really liked it
Shelves: minnesota
Anne Ursu achieved local fame here with her Batgirl blog, a witty commentary on the travails of our beloved Minnesota Twins. But now she's moved away and had a baby, so her writing is confined to a few books, including this one. It's a fantasy eerily grounded in real life, told in her sparkling voice. A quick read and one that makes me want to read another one of her books, "Spilling Clarence," asap.
Jul 29, 2008 rated it liked it
Shelves: book-club
This book was compelling for me because of the subject, but I didn't like a lot of other stuff about it. One example would be that in some of the sections the author gets into the heads of the main characters, who are all very different (a little girl, a professional woman/mother, a police officer, etc.) and the voices seemed distractingly artificial to me.
Oct 23, 2010 rated it liked it
Wow this book was interesting. I had to read only half involved because it was so emotional at parts and I couln't handle it. There are several dream chapters and thier presence in the book made the story more dream like and less real. For a book I just picked up with no expectations it was hard to put down
Dec 15, 2007 rated it liked it
kind of quirky book, you find yourself wondering what the heck is going on. not for those who need a satisfying ending or explanation of things. haha, actually you will probably enjoy this book as much as you enjoyed the movie "Signs". if you were one of those wondering "What the heck was up with the aliens?", then this book is probably not for you.
Marianne Stehr
Feb 28, 2010 rated it really liked it
At first I was disappointed by the end, but then after thinking about it, I think I almost missed the true meaning of the book and now that I didn't miss it I can give it four stars. This book is much more complex than it looks, it is certainly worth reading, but take your time and be sure to look past the obvious.
Shannon Renee
Jun 27, 2010 rated it liked it
This was a pretty good story. Its a parent's worst nightmare, a missing child. Its told through the eyes of the main characters: Hannah mother (the devoted doctor), Justin (the stay at home Mr. MOM) Greta (the loyal big sister) and Tom (the cop stationed at their house). I think I couldn't of finished the book without Greta and Tom.
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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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