Creepy! This word best describes the feeling I had while reading The Real Boy by Anne Ursu. I don’t mean creepy in a bad way, but in the way that sends chills down your spin with your mouth hanging open.
Oscar is a small boy that works for the most powerful magician in the land. Years ago the wizards disappeared, but their magic is still around. The city and forest are filled with sinister magic. (Sinister is used on the book jacket because it best describes what is happening!) Oscar is the hand of the magician Caleb, and Wolf is the apprentice who hates Oscar. I found out that the hand does the grunt work for the apprentice. Soon after the book begins something horrific happens to Wolf, and Caleb leaves to find “answers”. This leaves Oscar and his Callie to deal with the evil that is happening to the children of the city. If I write more it really does get into the whole spoiler alert realm. I’m not doing that!
While I was reading this at home I was reading Noah Barleywater Runs Away to my class. At one point in that book the old man says, “I should have never become a real boy.” This line stuck in my mind, so I kept wondering if the same was true of Oscar. Well, it’s not. I had trouble putting The Real Boy down. It is an engaging story where twists and turns kept me reading. There were many times where I just wanted to take Oscar in my arms and hug him and tell him everything will be alright. Of course that’s not possible with a character in a fantasy book. I like the perseverance of both Callie and Oscar, and their true understanding of what is good versus evil. I’m not quite sure on this for third graders, but definitely for 4th grade and above.