• Happy birthday Jane Cutler (Guttersnipe).
  • It’s the birth date of Harry Behn (1898-1973) The Faraway Lurs, Wilson Rawls (1913-1984), Where the Red Fern Grows, and L. Leslie Brooke (1862-1940), Johnny Crow’s Garden.
  • Happy birthday to the United States Post Office, established in 1789. Read Dear Mr. Blueberry by Simon James.
  • In 1906, U.S. President Theodore Roosevelt proclaims Devil’s Tower in Wyoming the first National Monument. Read A Blizzard Year by Gretel Ehrlich.

Continuing in the spirit of Read a New Book Month, today marks the publication of a book that I’ve been eager to share with Almanac readers: Anne Ursu’s The Real Boy. I thought Anne’s Breadcrumbs was a spectacular book. But I am ever more impressed with her storytelling abilities in The Real Boy.

Oscar, an orphan from Easter Aletheia, a place with no trees or magic, becomes a “hand” in the workshop of the Master Magician, Caleb. Although some consider the boy to be simple or odd, Oscar has great affinity with plants and animals, including the cats of the household. One fateful day when Caleb returns from out of town, he discovers his apprentice, Wolf, has been killed. In Wolf’s absence, Oscar has been left to run the shop—a task way beyond his abilities.

From this point on everything in Oscar’s secure world goes awry. Slowly he reaches out in friendship to Callie, an apprentice healer, who needs Oscar’s help with plants. Together the two set out to discover why all the children in the city are becoming sick. And then an unthinkable event happens—all of Caleb’s magic cannot save him from a monster that attacks the shop. When Oscar’s master dies, he is now alone and orphaned in a world that seems to be running amuck. After Oscar discovers a wooden puppet in Caleb’s workshop, he begins to fear that he is not a real boy, but merely a puppet brought to life.

Anne Ursu keeps readers turning the pages until the unexpected but satisfying ending of the story. Oscar makes an endearing protagonist; he struggles with his inability to interact with people and even look them in the eye. He does not understand emotional interactions and without thinking says things that hurt those around him. However, in the end he and Callie realize they may be the only ones who can save this magic-sick country from itself.

The Real Boy reads aloud beautifully; it makes a superb choice for a book discussion group or independent reading for those nine through fourteen. And it deals with questions not often addressed in fantasy for the young, such as: Is a world without magic better than one with it?

So happy publication date to The Real Boy. I believe this book will be around for a long, long time.

Here’s a passage from The Real Boy:

Oscar awoke in the morning with the feeling of dread twitching in his body, as if mice had been skittering along the inside of his skin all night. With a deep breath, he counted the things around him that were real. There was the ceiling; there were his walls; here was his bed, his blanket, his Pebble.

Whenever he woke up from a dream, he had to talk himself slowly back into the world, counting its structures and boundaries and steady, sure things. Whatever great gaping world his mind had taken him to the night before, the one he lived is was made of small closed-in spaces. It was all right. It was all right.


Originally posted September 24, 2013. Updated for .

Tags: Adventure, Magic, Quest
Instructional materials from TeachingBooks.net for The Real Boy


  1. Eliza says:

    Oh my gosh, I’m so excited to read this and can’t wait until my library gets its copies in and processed. Luckily, I’m first on the hold list for this book.

    Like you, I loved Breadcrumbs, so I was super excited when I found out she had a new book coming out. All the reviews I’ve read have been glowing and say that it’s even better than Breadcrumbs. It’s great to hear that you think the same thing. I can’t wait to I’ve read it and join in the discussions about the book.

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