Ursu, Anne. 2013. THE REAL BOY. Ill. by McGuire, Erin. New York, NY: HarperCollins. ISBN 9780062015075 [Suggested Grade Levels 4-6]
Oscar is most comfortable in the cellar bellow a magician’s magic shop. He works as a shop boy collecting, grinding, and combining herbs. There is a logic and predictability with the herbs that Oscar is unable to find in the world outside of the cellar. The world around him is strange, and Oscar does not understand how he fits in to it.
The Barrow, once thriving with magic and wizards, is experiencing something of a magical drought. There are a series of mysterious attacks in the woods, and perfect children are falling ill in the glistening city. People flee, and no one is left to help other than Oscar and his friend Callie.
Never does Ursu state so in the book; however, Oscar has many autistic characteristics. Younger readers may not make such a connection, but as Oscar struggles with such things as recognizing facial expressions, they are able to see and understand his differences. Additionally, they are able to see how those differences, those qualities that make it difficult for Oscar to socialize with others, also give him the unique ability to help his struggling community.
In THE REAL BOY Ursu creates a fascinating fantasy world with compelling characters.
Oscar has an unnamed disability. His differences, while hindrances at the beginning of the novel, are by the end essential tools to help those who need him. Students could analyze Oscar’s character arc after researching the autism spectrum. How does his autism affect his interactions with other characters and the find resolution in the plot?
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