The Real Boy
In the tradition of the Velveteen Rabbit and Pinocchio, Anne Ursu's (Breadcrumbs) 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 the magician Master Caleb plucked from the orphanage.
Oscar lives with Master Caleb in the Barrow, "the tangle of forest and darkness" that encircles Asteri, the "Shining City," named for its "Shining People." Oscar prefers not to talk with anyone. He feels most at home in the forest, where the magic lives in the soil of the wizard trees, and he can gather herbs to mix Master Caleb's concoctions. Ursu weaves together a haunting tale of villagers who avoid confronting themselves, and instead crave more and more magic to solve their problems. The cost is great.
Ursu describes how Oscar prizes routine and rules--and how compelled he feels to find answers to what's happening to the disintegrating world around them ("[I]t was very difficult to know how to function in the world when every truth turned out to be just an illusion"). As Oscar ventures into the unknown to set things right, he learns he has more courage than he could ever have imagined. --Jennifer M. Brown, children's editor, Shelf Awareness