Oscar is the shop boy for the most powerful magician in the Barrow. He loves his job taking care of the plants in the magician's secret garden and making sure there are enough herbs in the shop for the magician's potions and trinkets. It is a good job for a boy who gets along well with cats, but really doesn't seem to know how to interact with people at all. He spends his free time with his master's cats and books with stories about the wizards who used to live in the area.
In The Real Boy, by Anne Ursu (Lexile: 730; Interest Level: Grades 3-6), when the magician goes away on a trip, the apprentice, Wolf, leaves Oscar in charge of the shop while he goes out on an "important errand." When Wolf doesn't return, Oscar does his best to run the shop, but he isn't prepared for how to talk to people. Then Oscar discovers that Wolf was killed on his errand, probably for using magic he wasn't ready to handle, and Oscar starts to notice the strange things going on in the world around him.
Children in the city are starting to get sick, and Oscar's friend Callie asks for him to help her save them. The children's parents are sure they need the magician, but he is away from home. Something evil is hiding in the forest, and starting to attack the shops in the Barrow. It is up to Oscar and Callie to figure out the problem, and magic may not be the answer.
This was a very different sort of fantasy book with a very different main character. I really enjoyed seeing the world from Oscar's point of view, and trying to puzzle out the difficulties as he described them. Readers who are looking for a slightly different story may want to give this one a try. (341 pages)
One of the reasons I became an elementary school librarian is so I can read children's books.