The Real Boy

by Anne Ursu and Erin McGuire

Oscar works for Master Caleb, a magician, and has only hazy memories of the orphanage... read more

Oscar works for Master Caleb, a magician, and has only hazy memories of the orphanage where he once lived. He enjoys the predictability of his work gathering herbs in the forest and preparing them for use in Caleb's trinkets and potions. When Master Caleb's apprentice is killed while Caleb is away, Oscar must run the magician's shop. Oscar understands herbs and trees and cats-he has quite a few-but finds people a mystery. Their facial expressions confuse him; social niceties seem pointless. He gets help from Callie, the healer's apprentice, who knows how to deal with everyone from the peasants and magic smiths of the Barrows where they live to the rich, shining citizens of the city of Asteri. When the perfect children of Asteri start growing strangely ill, Callie and Oscar are summoned to help. A trip to the forest for herbs reveals a swath of devastation and destruction that soon finds its way to the Barrows, and it seems that there may be more than one menace to deal with. In searching for answers, Oscar discovers a chilling secret that he's certain reveals an awful truth about himself-one that would explain why he finds people so difficult to understand. Anne Ursu's novel is a delight to read, with two sympathetic and engaging protagonists, an original plot, and an intriguing connection to a classic work. Her characterization of Oscar, and ultimate affirmation that there is absolutely nothing wrong with his way of being in the world, is deftly and beautifully done. (Ages 8-11)

© Cooperative Children's Book Center, Univ. of Wisconsin - Madison, 2014

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