|The Real Boy
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 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 it.
Awards and Honors
National Book Award 2013 Longlist Selection
New York Public Library’s “One Hundred Titles for
Reading and Sharing”
Bank Street Children’s Book Committee Best Book of the Year, 2014
IndieBound Kids’ Indie Next List Pick
“In the tradition of The Velveteen Rabbit and Pinocchio, Anne Ursu's (Breadcrumbs) latest novel explores what makes someone (or something) ‘real.’ The author mines the potential of magic and mystery in the story of 11-year-old Oscar, whom Master Caleb, ‘the first magician in a generation,’ plucked from the orphanage.”
—Shelf Awareness, starred review
“This is a tale replete with memorable settings and weighty issues. Readers will dog Oscar’s footsteps, wondering as he does, when magic moves from being a gift to becoming a crutch. . . . Oscar’s tremendous heart fills every nook of this richly told story. His heroic stumbles will fondly remind readers of Gail Carson Levine’s Ella Enchanted and Meg from Madeleine L’Engle’s A Wrinkle in Time.”
—School Library Journal, starred review
“It’s all highly rewarding and involving, with a tight plot, resonant themes, a gripping adventure, a clearly limned fantasy landscape, and a sympathetic main character.”
—The Horn Book
“Deeply moving, with language powerful and true as a child’s voice. Grade: A”—The Cleveland Plain Dealer
"Wholly unexpected with plot twists and turns you won’t see coming, no matter how hard you squint, Ursu’s is a book worth nabbing for your own sweet self. Grab that puppy up." —Betsy Bird, Fuse #8 (read the full review)
"There is such richness to this tale about a world seemingly falling apart. All of the fairy tale allusions. All of the plot twists that took me by surprise. The disregard for people and for the environment that greed has fostered in so many of the adult characters we meet in this well-drawn setting.
"But in the end, The Real Boy is such a compelling fantasy story because of the two children who, amidst the chaos of their world, can help each other so much. –Richie’s Picks (read the full review)
"Anne Ursu keeps readers turning the pages until the unexpected but satisfying ending of the story…. I believe this book will be around for a long, long time.” –Anita Silvey, Children’s Book-A-Day Almanac (read the full review)
“Ursu’s latest presents a rich world filled with natural magic and a troubling origin story of sacrifice. The puzzling and atmospheric mystery takes an empowering turn as Callie and Oscar learn to rely on the valuable strengths they already have.”—ALA Booklist
“An underdog boy saving the people who ridicule him is a familiar premise, but here it unfolds organically, echoing the fairy-tale tradition of mixing darkly sinister themes with moments of true heroism and bravery.”—BCCB
"Anne Ursu's The Real Boy is a fantasy in the truest, deepest sense: it illuminates the human experience by giving substance and shape to that which is otherwise intangible. Beautifully written and elegantly structured, this fantasy is as real as it gets."
—Franny Billingsley, author of Chime
"Anne Ursu has created a brilliant fantasy, alive with the smells and sights and sounds of a place both familiar and strange-but the true magic of The Real Boy lies in the powerful friendship that grows between Callie and Oscar. A joy to read."
—Linda Urban, author of A Crooked Kind of Perfect
"The Real Boy is an engaging fable about what happens when people reject real life in favor of pleasure, of magic. I enjoyed it very much."
—Nancy Farmer, author of The House of the Scorpion