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Tuesday, March 3, 2015

(MMGM) The Real Boy by Anne Ursu {review and giveaway}

Welcome to Day 3 of the 4th Annual March MG Madness! Today, we're celebrating Anne Ursu's marvelous The Real Boy...

The Real Boy
by Anne Ursu
2/3/15 (paperback edition)
Walden Pond Press
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 small.

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.

Praise for The Real Boy

“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 

“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

"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

Anne Ursu’s The Real Boy is a spellbinding middle-grade fantasy full of magic, intrigue, mystery, and the unexpected. Within a magical forest of ancient trees called the Barrow, a forest that surrounds a walled-in shining city, lives a young boy named Oscar. Oscar works for a wizard and likes his small room in the dark cellar where he works. Quiet, different Oscar doesn’t fit in and isn’t what you’d call a people person, but when the children within the shining city start to get sick, Oscar must learn to work with a young healer apprentice, Callie, in order to save the sick and his beloved forest.

Ursu has such a wonderful and captivating talent for spinning familiar fairytale elements into something completely new and enchanting. The magical and fantastical world of Asteri and the Barrow are so beautifully crafted, the characters are charming and have so much depth, and the story Ursu spins is unforgettable.

The world-building in The Real Boy is excellent! Asteri (the shining city), the Barrow, and the plaguelands are all laid out and explored with rich, vibrant details, and the magical history of this world has such great layers. All together, this is a truly fantastic fantasy world that I found myself completely enraptured with and lost in. The Real Boy is both whimsically dark and haunting and achingly lovely and moving. There’s something so exquisite, yet accessible, and addicting about Ursu’s storytelling and writing; her descriptions and words just wrap themselves around you.  

There are exciting and fun adventure and mystery elements in The Real Boyand the fantastical elements are superb and surprising, but at the heart of this book is a beautiful story about friendship, love, and faith. A story that is driven by some compelling and well-developed characters. Ursu has created something super special with her hero Oscar.

*may be spoilery (not so much plot, but characterization) beyond this point*

Oscar is unique and different in many ways and, although it is never said in the book, I believe Oscar is meant to be on the autism spectrum. Autistic characters are rarely seen in fantasy books, especially middle-grade fantasy books, and Ursu perfectly captures, not only the struggles autistic children face, but the beauty in Oscar’s uniqueness. One of the reasons I adore the character of Callie so much is that she never teases Oscar because of his differences or thinks less of him; she sees all the amazing and wonderful qualities in him. The friendship that develops between these two is so genuine and heart-warming.

MY FINAL THOUGHTS: Anne Ursu is a fairytale master and her talent simply shines in The Real Boy. The story, the world-building, the characters- all are fantastic, entertaining, and special. This is a gorgeous must read for young and older readers alike!


Anne is the author of Breadcrumbs, a contemporary retelling of “The Snow Queen,” and the three books in The Cronus Chronicles series—The Shadow ThievesThe Siren Song, and The Immortal Fire. She has also written two books for adult readers. Anne teaches at Hamline University’s MFA in Writing for Children, and lives in Minneapolis with her young son.

Win a signed paperback copy of
The Real Boy!
Walden Pond Press has generously offered 5 signed paperback copies for five winners.
-US only
-ends 3/31
-must be 13+ to enter
-winners will be emailed and must claim prize within 48 hours
-Word Spelunking is not responsible for lost, damaged, or stolen prizes

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anne s. said...

my daughter and I both loved Breadcrumbs. would love for a chance to win a copy of The Real Boy :)

Jill the OWL said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Jill the OWL said...

I was able to meet Anne a few times. She's such a nice lady! So happy for the success she's having.

Michelle @ In Libris Veritas said...

I loved Breadcrumbs, it was fantastic! Plus her humor on twitter is top-notch.

Batch of Books said...

This is SUCH a good book! I loved it so much that I gave it to my mom and she loved it so much that she gave it to her neighbor. I lost track of it after that, but it's definitely worth the read! It's also worth having the hardcover copy on my shelf so I can look at it and read it to my kids once they're old enough.

Manju Howard said...

Anne, I enjoyed reading The Real Boy and Breadcrumbs. I would love to own a signed copy.

Orchid said...

Funny, I was just thinking about this book the other day for something I'm working on!

I actually have not read anything by Anne Ursu yet, but The Real Boy sounds like quite the interesting read.

Sui Generis said...

Thank you so much for this lovely giveaway! I bet my little sis and nieces will be happy to read this!