Tuesday, July 21, 2015

‘The Real Boy’ by Anne Ursu

Book cover, 'The Real Boy' by Anne Ursu. From a darkened hallway, a young boy carrying a lantern enters a room with vials on tables and attached to the wall. Behind him, cats peer into the room he has entered.
In the cellar beneath a magician’s shop, a young boy named Oscar enjoys a life of quiet routine — of gathering herbs from his master’s garden and then grinding them for use while the household cats keep him company.

Oscar’s master, Caleb, and magic smiths of the community create and sell enchanted objects and charms for a city’s privileged inhabitants.

Suddenly, the community is plagued by terrifying and unexplained events and Oscar must emerge from his cellar sanctuary and tend the shop while his master is away. He reluctantly teams up with the healer’s apprentice to try to solve mysterious ailments that threaten the children of the city.

Always, Oscar is painfully aware of how different he is from everyone — people in the village condemn him as “shifty” because he won’t look people in the eye.

When Oscar discovers that trees were cut down in a grove of wizards’ ancient trees, Oscar thinks he knows the reason for his strangeness.

Like Oscar, I had no explanation for my awareness growing up, of how different — how alien — I felt from everyone around me. I thoroughly related to this autistic character in a world where the diagnosis does not exist. At the same time, I appreciated the story’s emphasis that your life — and even self — are within your power to shape. Whether you were first “made” of wood or flesh, you get to do the making.

Disclosure of Material Connection: My taxes support my public library’s acquisition of this and other resources. I consider the access I enjoy to be a “priceless” return on my investment.

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