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Set aside a special place for children to keep their own books.
Summary: Oscar can't remember life before Master Caleb. As the hand to Asteri's first magician in a generation, Oscar's job was to collect and prepare the materials for Master Caleb to sell in the store. The strict routine of going into the woods and working in the basement suited Oscar just fine. He was "different" and didn't do well with people. Callie, the healer's apprentice, took Oscar under her wing and tried to help him, especially now that Master Caleb was traveling to the Continent and Oscar had to run the store! Change! Oscar doesn't like change, and things are changing drastically: something is stealing magic and killing people; children are getting sick; and most devastating to Oscar, someone has cut down the Wizard Trees that protect the island. Can an apprentice healer and a magician's hand find the magic to stop the devastation? This is a fantasy story that looks at magic - and people's reliance on easy answers - in a thought provoking way. This is a High Interest / Low Readability option.
Type of Reading: bedtime story, family reading, independent reading, read aloud book, reluctant reader, remedial reader
Recommended Age: read together: 8 to 12; read yourself: 10 and Up
Young Reader Reaction: If you love books about magic and supernatural experiences, this one is for you. Anne Ursu provides the perfect balance between magic and reality. The Real Boy is magical without being too far-fetched and realistic without being too close to reality. I am not an avid reader of magical books or books that move too far from reality. Despite the fact that the book was not one of my favorite genres, I thoroughly enjoyed the read. I appreciated how the characters interacted and how, despite the content being fantasy, they possessed relatable human traits. I enjoyed the way that the author used some vocabulary that is not typically used in books for young teenagers. She presented new words in a way where the young reader could still infer what they meant. I appreciated her writing style and the way she displayed her characters in an almost lifelike manner. I would recommend this book to kids age 10-12 because it is a fairly easy read, however it contains some higher-level vocabulary.
Adult Reader Reaction: Absolutely captivating. Oscar and Callie touch your heart. Oscar's journey of self-discovery is particularly poignant. The story moves along smoothly, but not predictably, and several events leave you with some very interesting questions. [No spoilers here.]
Pros: Endearing characters combine with a unique plot to make this a refreshing page turner. Everyone can enjoy this wholesome, thoughtful story. Children on the Autism Spectrum will find a dear friend in Oscar.
Borrow or Buy: Buy. This is a great story - different but of the same caliber as Harry Potter - and one worth having on your library shelf.
Our teen reviewer says: This is a book that I would check out at the library rather then give as a gift. The book was good, but it was not one that I would need on my bookshelf at home.
Educational Themes: This is a perfect bedtime story or read-aloud in a classroom. It is mean to be for fun, but the focus on magic and how it is used could be an interesting discussion.
Notes: The publisher donated an Advance Review Copy (ARC) of this book knowing that we would consider it for review and provide an independent, unbiased profile. This book will be given to a nonprofit to help readers in need.