Monday, December 9, 2013

Marvelous Middle Grade Monday: The Real Boy

Today’s Pick: The Real Boy by Anne Ursu

drawings by Erin McGuire
HarperCollins, 2013

From Amazon:
The Real Boy, Anne Ursu’s follow-up to her widely acclaimed and beloved middle-grade fantasy Breadcrumbs, is an unforgettable story of magic, faith, and friendship.

On an island on the edge of an immense sea there is a city, a forest, and a boy named Oscar. Oscar is a shop boy for the most powerful magician in the village, and 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.

But now that world is changing. Children in the city are falling ill, and something sinister lurks in the forest. Oscar has long been content to stay in his small room in the cellar, comforted in the knowledge that the magic that flows from the forest will keep his island safe. Now, even magic may not be enough to save it.

My Take:

The setting and magical world of this story drew me in. I loved all the descriptions of the tinctures and salves that Oscar helped to create. I felt that I was experiencing the garden, the shops, or the forests right along with Oscar. The character of Oscar was so clear in my mind that I saw the world through the his eyes and felt his fears right along with him. I also enjoyed a magical problem that was a little different than other books I’ve read about magic. The version I read was an e-book, so I don't think I could fully appreciate the lovely drawings by Erin McGuire.

As I writer, I’d read this novel again to see how the author used language to create vivid imagery. I also really admired how she managed to create a character who sees the world so differently from everyone else without making this the focus of the story.

Opening Line:

“The residents of the gleaming hilltop town of Asteri called their home, simply, the City.”


“The great oak trees grew to the sky like ladders for giants or gods, and spread their twisting branches as far out over the soil as they could.”

“These hours in the library were stolen things, and he had to be as careful as a thief about how he chose to spend them.”

“His head was full of ice and noise, and it was everything he could do to sort through it all.”


Other Info:

Anne Ursu lives in Minneapolis, where she lives with her son and three cats.

In a guest post at the Children’s Literature Network, Anne Ursu talks about writing: “fear is good…there’s no point to writing a book you already know how to write, that you aren’t terrified to write.”

At Read, Write, Reflect, Anne writes about her motivation for creating the story, based on her experiences as the parent of a boy with autism: “I had lots of ideas, lots of things I was trying to do, but after a while it came down to this: I just wanted Dash to have a book where a kid like him got to be a hero.”

Other children’s books by this author:

The Cronus Chronicles: The Shadow Thieves, The Siren Song, and The Immortal Fire.

For more info, visit Anne Ursu’s website.

You can find more Marvelous Middle Grade Monday books by checking out Shannon Messenger’s blog! Shannon is the founder of Marvelous Middle Grade Monday and the author of the middle grade novels, Keeper of the Lost Cities and Exile (Keeper of the Lost Cities #2).


  1. This sounds like a wonderful book and I love the quote about "...terrified to write."

    1. Me too. It really makes you think about what you're writing about.

  2. I enjoyed this one, too. It has so many levels of story to think about.

  3. Really want to read this one! Thanks for featuring it, Andrea.

  4. I'm dying to read this book. Love the language in the passages you quoted.

    1. I really am noticing and admiring lovely language these days. Hoping some of it will rub off!

  5. This sounds fantastic. And my library is getting it. Thanks for sharing it with us!


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