Title: The Real Boy
Author: Anne Ursu
Rating: 4 Stars
Genre: Middle Grade Fantasy
Length: 352 pages
I didn’t want Oscar to triumph in the end despite his autism or because of his autism; I wanted him to triumph because of who he is-- an exceptionally brave, loving boy. I wanted him to know that he had the power to survive and triumph no matter what the world throws at him. I want every kid to know that. -Anne UrsuWhile I caught the allusions to autism, I'm ashamed that I completely missed the numerous allusions to fairy tales throughout the book--specifically The Sorcerer's Apprentice and Pinocchio. I didn't realize how much Ursu was weaving in older, familiar stories until I read another review that pointed this out. The allusions are everywhere, so now I really want to reread with this in mind!
The book is also really well-written and beautifully illustrated. Also of note is that the main characters are all people of color, but like the autism element, it's quietly part of their characters without being a defining characteristic or an afterthought.
Ursu is also the author of Breadcrumbs, which has been on my to-read list for awhile now, and The Real Boy was nominated for a Minnesota Book Award this year. If you enjoy middle grade fiction or classic fantasy, I'd definitely recommend this book. And if you know a kid who enjoys fantasy, definitely hand this one to them.