Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Blog Tour- The Real Boy by Anne Ursu Review and Giveaway

Today, I am reviewing The Real Boy by Anne Ursu as part of the blog tour. You can follow the tour Here.  You might remember the illustration I shared with you last week from the book here.

The Real Boy by Anne Ursu
Available Now
Published by Walden Pond Press
Hardcover 288 pages
To Buy Links-

Synopsis-  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.

But it's been a long time since anyone who could call himself a wizard walked the world, and 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 trees will keep his island safe. Now, even magic may not be enough to save it.


Anne Ursu is a storyteller like no other. It's not just the story, or the characters, but also the words she uses that create images that make you say "yes, yes, I know how that looks," or "oh, I can picture that". It's not just the way she writes, but the words seem magical as she weaves her story. And the story is about magic and the power that word holds. "Magic". It makes me tingle whenever I read it in a book description. It holds a promise of things to come, enchanting, sparkling, potions and spells and well, magic. But, I realized, I was prepared for magic being comfortable and well, good. That's not this story.

I wondered, just from the name, if this was a Pinocchio story. And, after reading it, I can't say. It has some of the elements, but I think it's purposely ambiguous to let you make your own interpretations. Yes, definitely there is a round about nod to Pinocchio, but Anne Ursu makes it completely her own story. That's what I like about her storytelling, you don't really get a retelling. It's a complete reworking with only a touch of the original story there.

Oscar is a bit hard to attach to, he doesn't feel anything for a long time. He relates the story to us as if he were a newspaper reporter. The cats seem to bring out the most feeling in him. That and the plants. But the one feeling we see clearly is fear. He has bad dreams, nightmares and they wake him at night so that he sneaks into the library and reads. He is a cautious boy, as if he is always wanting to hide in the shadows, afraid to be seen, not allowed to be there, wherever he is. He isn't supposed to be out at night, but he waits, after his nightmare, for hours after the last footsteps, and finally goes to the library. And he reads.

Callie is the apprentice to the healer Madame Mariel. She is a few years older than Oscar and very much not impressed by the "Shining People" of Asteri who live on the hill surrounded by white walls and protected from illness and danger because they are guarded by magic. Yet they still come down into the Barrows for little love potions, luck charms and such. Callie seems to figure Oscar out right away, not completely, but she knows enough that he isn't comfortable when he's left to mind the store in Master Caleb's absence. She, too, is left to run the healer's business in Madame's absence.  She decides to strike a deal with him to show him how to run the shop, to talk to people if he will help her with her healing.

Oscar's cellar, his world, is suddenly not only bigger, but louder, brighter and now he has to share it with someone. He has to learn how to read faces, especially Callie's and he finds that not every face can be read the same. He has to learn what to do when he hurts Callie's feelings and what not to say in front of people with sick children. And yes, the people of Asteri, or their children are getting sick. They never get sick, it's just not supposed to happen. And the healer and the magician are gone. Tragedy strikes Oscar and he makes a huge discovery that sends him back to thinking there is something wrong with him as if "that" is the reason he is like this. When I read what Callie said to him, and there is a picture to go with it, it brought big fat sloppy tears to my eyes. It was so unexpected! Magic. That's Anne Ursu's writing for you.

There are a lot of secrets that are hidden from the people of The Barrows and Asteri. Maybe some remember and just chose to forget. Maybe some never knew. But the earth remembers. The magic knows. And truthfully everyone knows what must be done only no one wants to admit it. They don't want change. The ending is ambiguous as I said before, but I believe in happily ever afters so that's what  I think happens. It doesn't bother me a bit that the ending doesn't say yes this happens.

I really do highly recommend this novel to anyone that enjoys Middle Grade Fiction, though I hate to limit it to Middle Grade. It's just a good story. A definite twist on the Pinnochio story that will leave you wondering to the very end.

I received a copy of this novel from Kellie at Walden Pond Press for review. This in no way influenced my review. All opinions expressed are my own.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Anne Ursu
Anne Ursu is the author of Breadcrumbs, which was acclaimed as one of the best books of 2011 by The Bulletin of the Center for Children’s BooksSchool Library JournalPublisher’s Weekly, and the Chicago Public Library. It was also an IndieBound Next List Pick, an NPR Backseat Book Club featured selection, and received four starred reviews. Anne lives in Minneapolis with her son and three cats. You can visit her online at
Erin McGuire
Erin McGuire is a children’s book illustrator living in Dallas, Texas. She has illustrated such books as Nancy Drew Diaries, Breadcrumbs, Saranormal, and French Ducks in Venice. Outside of work, she enjoys her book club, baking, and camping. As an avid reader and lifelong lover of books, getting to illustrate stories for kids every day is her dream job. Erin’s work can be found online at and on her blog at


  1. Thanks to you & Kellie for the giveaway. I am currently reading Breadcrumbs with my daughter and we would love to add The Real Boy to our library -- it sounds like an amazing book.

  2. I really need to read this, it's been getting a lot of great reviews. I'll be sure to check it out. Thanks!

  3. Another amazing review for this book. I really need to get this for my cousin's kids (and give it used, I'm curious about her writing now! LOL).

  4. I have now read three great reviews for this book and I am convinved I need to read it! I also want to read Breadcrumbs! Thanks so much to Kelly for the giveaway!

  5. The storytelling sounds amazing in this one

  6. Thank you so much Waldon Press!! I am SO bloody excited for this :)


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