The Real Boy by Anne Ursu: Exlusive Artwork Reveal and Giveaway!


September 30, 2013 by Heidi

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Today I am so excited to be hosting an exclusive artwork reveal and excerpt from Anne Ursu’s newest book, The Real Boy, illustrated by Erin McGuire.  

I read Ursu’s previous book, Breadcrumbs, prior to blogging and fell utterly in love with both the words and the stunning illustrations that paired with them.  Ursu completely captured me by retelling one of my favorite tales, The Snow Queen, in a setting that seemed so close to home yet so wrapped up in wonder and a frighteningly cold landscape.

Since then, I’ve been awaiting her next work hungrily, and was thrilled to see the author again pairing with McGuire to bring her world to life.  When I first saw this particular piece of artwork, I was completely taken with the homey feeling of it, not yet aware of the desperate longing that would accompany it.  I hope you enjoy!

Gripping the ladder with his right hand as tightly as anything had ever been gripped, Oscar pulled the book off the shelf and put it in his satchel, next to the block of wood he’d picked up earlier that day. And, because he couldn’t resist, he took the one about the wizards, too—he could put it under his bed, where it could keep the misfit books company.

That done, he climbed back down—which did not seem at all less treacherous than going up, really, especially when you had a stolen spell book and the entire history of local wizardry in your bag.

When he got down, he settled himself in a chair and began to flip through Magic and the Mind.

It was nothing like a plant book, which had careful illustrations and intricate diagrams and easy explanations, the sort of thing you could study and then keep in your head to refer to whenever you needed it. Some of those books were organized by plants, some by the kind of magic—prosperity, luck, beauty, health, protection, love…But no matter what, the pages were so clear: when someone named a problem or Caleb told Oscar to prepare an herb, the image of the page popped into his mind unbidden. They were all there, like there was a compendium in his head, and all he had to do was sort through and find the right one.

This book was all nonsense, with still more nonsense scribbled in the margins. The sentences stretched out and then tucked back into themselves, and then turned around again and wandered off in a different direction. There were no instructions, not that he could see—just strange scribbles and diagrams that meant nothing, and words that meant even less.

With the plants, there was a system—cultivate them, pick them, dry them, prepare them. There were rules, ritual, patterns. And there were things you could hold in your hand. If there was any system to the magic in this book, it relied on rules in languages Oscar didn’t even know.

All he could make out were some of the labels of spells, and even those didn’t necessarily make sense: the Black Mirror, Unbinding Powers, Blood Calling, the Breath of Life, and Living Enchantments. There were spells to make a man think he was haunted, spells to make him forget, spells to make him believe, spells to sicken his mind. Oscar could see no spell for restoring memories—but there was one for implanting them. A strange thing, to plant a memory, like a lily in a vegetable garden.

Oscar closed the book. What had he been looking for, exactly? A spell that a hand could find that the only true magician in the Barrow did not know about? A spell an apprentice could do and Master Caleb could not? He’d been pulled along by a whim, like a distant flicker in a labyrinth.

Orphan. Misfit. Idiot.

Oscar squeezed his arms around his chest and glanced over at the sleeping cats. No spell for memory.  No way to help Callie. And—it was funny—a whole book on magic and the mind and there was nothing in it about fixing a boy who was not quite right.

Text Copyright © 2013 by Anne Ursu

The Real Boy artwork

All artwork copyright © 2013 by Erin McGuire

Anne UrsuAnne Ursu is the author of Breadcrumbs, which was acclaimed as one of the best books of 2011 by The Bulletin of the Center for Children’s BooksSchool Library JournalPublisher’s Weekly, and the Chicago Public Library. It was also an IndieBound Next List Pick, an NPR Backseat Book Club featured selection, and received four starred reviews. Anne lives in Minneapolis with her son and three cats. You can visit her online at

The Real Boy - Full Jacket

Erin McGuire is a children’s book illustrator living in Dallas, Texas. She has illustrated such books as Nancy Drew Diaries, Breadcrumbs, Saranormal, and French Ducks in Venice. Outside of work, she enjoys her book club, baking, and camping. As an avid reader and lifelong lover of books, getting to illustrate stories for kids every day is her dream job. Erin’s work can be found online at and on her blog at


The Real Boy by Anne UrsuThe lovely people over at Walden Pond Press are kind enough to offer up several giveaways for you lovely readers!  First, enter my giveaway here for a signed hardcover copy of Anne Ursu’s stunning new book, The Real Boy.  A couple of rules:

  • US Only
  • The winner will have 24 hours to respond to my e-mail, or another winner will be chosen.

Then, hop on over to the Walden Pond Press Facebook page where you can enter to win $300 of books!

a Rafflecopter giveaway


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  1. Dawn says:

    Currently reading Breadcrumbs with my daughter & loving it! Would be great to add this title to our library. Thanks.

  2. Laura says:

    Breadcrumbs was incredible. I was on the library waiting list for The Real Boy months ago, but have a feeling I will be purchasing a copy anyway.

  3. Alyssa says:

    This piece is GORGEOUS. I mean come on…a highback chair, books…CATS?! I LOVED Breadcrumbs (just bought it this weekend actually) so I obviously cannot wait for The Real Boy!!

    P.S. You rock.

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While the source for each book I review is posted within its review, please assume unless otherwise stated that books reviewed on Bunbury in the Stacks were received free from the author or publisher in exchange for an honest review.