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  • Published: 3 May 2013
  • ISBN: 9781775533252
  • Imprint: RHNZ Children’s ebooks
  • Format: EBook
  • Pages: 248

Felix and the Red Rats




Fantasy, adventure and realism combine in a junior fiction novel by an award-winning writer.

Fantasy, adventure and realism combine in a junior fiction novel by an award-winning writer.

When David’s uncle comes to visit he sets off a bizarre series of events. Things become complicated when the pet rats turn bright red.

David senses that somehow the red rats are connected to the story he is reading, and he becomes more convinced when the colour red becomes contagious.

The parallel story sees Felix and his friend Bella inadvertently shifted into a strange land where they must solve a riddle. But this puts them into great danger. How will they escape and find their way home?

Young readers will want to solve the confusing conundrum of the red rats; they’ll delight in the word riddles and be absorbed by David’s story as well as by the fantastical adventures of Felix and Bella, skilfully told by the NZ Post Award-winning writer James Norcliffe.

  • Published: 3 May 2013
  • ISBN: 9781775533252
  • Imprint: RHNZ Children’s ebooks
  • Format: EBook
  • Pages: 248

About the author

James Norcliffe

James Norcliffe is an award-winning poet, educator, editor and author of books for adults and children.

He was the 2018 Creative New Zealand Randell Cottage Writing Fellow, the 2012 University of Otago College of Education Writer in Residence, the 2006 Fellow at Iowa University and the 2000 Robert Burns Fellow at Otago University.

In 2003, Norcliffe, with Bernadette Hall, received the inaugural Christchurch Press Literary Liaisons Honour Award for ‘lasting contribution to literature in the South Island’. Norcliffe has taught English in Christchurch, China and Brunei. He won the Lilian Ida Smith Award in 1990, and the New Zealand Poetry Society’s international competition in 1992.

His children’s fantasy novel The Assassin of Gleam won the Sir Julius Vogel Award for the best New Zealand fantasy novel of 2006, and was shortlisted for the 2007 LIANZA Esther Glen Medal. In the Christchurch Press, Trevor Agnew wrote that Norcliffe had avoided producing what could have been ‘just another cardboard fantasy cliché’ and had ‘breathed life into his characters and situations. The result is a skilfully told story, with a dark mood and a sense of urgency. It is clear that a master storyteller is at work from the first sentence...’ In New Zealand Books, Heather Murray identified Norcliffe’s ‘experience as historian and poet to create a logical, believable and exciting story out of an alienating and threatening world’. She concluded: ‘Though Norcliffe creates frightening worlds, [he] grounds his story and characters in acceptable reality through using known language’.

The Loblolly Boy, published in 2009 in New Zealand, Australia and the United States, was described by acclaimed children’s writer Margaret Mahy as ‘a rich fantasy — alive with original twists surprises and mysteries’. It won the 2010 NZ Post Junior Fiction Award, was shortlisted for the LIANZA Esther Glen Medal for Junior Fiction and the Sir Julius Vogel Science Fiction Award, and won a Storylines Notable Junior Fiction Book Award.

In Science Fiction World, Gerard Woods wrote of The Loblolly Boy that Norcliffe ‘has written that rare children’s book, as much a joy for adults to read as for children’. USA’s Booklist described The Loblolly Boy as ‘an imaginative and richly atmospheric fantasy with sympathetic characters...a haunting story that will capture most readers’ imaginations’. ‘The Loblolly Boy by James Norcliffe is an entrancing, exciting, unexpected read...it has a wondrous, magical fairy-tale ambience...I never quite knew where it was going or how it would be resolved,’ wrote George Ivanoff in Australian Speculative Fiction in Focus (ASFF). Fran Knight, writing in Read Plus, highly recommended The Loblolly Boy as an ‘intriguing, engrossing and wholly satisfying...highly original fantasy story’, while in the same publication Peter Pledger declared it ‘A unique and original fantasy, complete with adventure, magic and appealing characters, this is a tale that was hard to put down.’

A sequel, The Loblolly Boy & the Sorcerer, released in 2011 and was a finalist in the Junior Fiction category of the 2012 New Zealand Post Book Awards for Children and Young Adults. The Enchanted Flute, described in the Otago Daily Times as a ‘Part Grimm’s fairy tale, part classical mythology, part outdoor adventure…inspired, in part, by a piece of classical music’ followed, and was a finalist in the 2013 Sir Julius Vogel Awards.

Norcliffe’s 2013 novel Felix and the Red Rats is a riveting adventure which sees the margins between fiction and reality, and the past and the present, dangerously blur. Dave Pope, in Hawkes Bay Today, noted that ‘like all good stories this one has a plot within a plot within a plot. It keeps the reader wanting more, as minor characters are drawn into this dark tale.’ It won a Storylines Notable Junior Fiction Award in 2014.

The Pirates and the Nightmaker, a continuation of the loblolly boy’s adventures, was published in 2015. It won a Storylines Notable Junior Fiction Award and was a finalist in the junior fiction category of the New Zealand Book Awards for Children and Young Adults in 2016.

In a review in The Sapling, Sarah Forster described Norcliffe’s 2017 novel Twice Upon a Time as ‘traditional quest storytelling at its best, from a master of the form’ and declared that ‘James Norcliffe is a national treasure.’

A humorous fantasy adventure, Mallory, Mallory: The Revenge of the Tooth Fairy, was published in 2020 with illustrations by Emily Walker, described by Paula Green on Poetry Box as 'an utter delight' and received a Storylines Notable Junior Fiction Award in 2021. Its sequel Mallory, Mallory: Trick or Treat released in October 2021.

He lives in Church Bay with his wife, Joan Melvyn.

Also by James Norcliffe

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Praise for Felix and the Red Rats

This inventive novel follows the life of David, a young boy who is the only one who enjoys his Great Uncle Felix coming to stay. Felix is the only famous member of his family; he has written children's novels set in a mysterious world called Axillaris. When Felix arrives, strange, wonderful and random things start happening and suddenly David is in the middle of it all. I enjoy Norcliffe's writing, which is easy to follow. This is the best thing I have read and is as close to Margaret Mahy as I can find.

James Eunson, Tearaway

This is a multi level novel that explores the proposition that the line between fantasy and reality is a lot fuzzier than we think. Readers and writers of children’s literature know this already of course so it is always good when a children’s novel proves how true it is. Very clever writing from James Norcliffe. Almost a new Halfmen of O. All levels will get something out of this

Bob Doherty, Bob's Book Blog

Felix and the Red Rats is the latest children’s novel from James Norcliffe and a ripping wee yarn, rather a ripping two yarns, it is two.James Norcliffe has set the tones of the two stories at the appropriate pitch, with fully realised characters and plots in both tales; and at the end very fittingly ties them together in the final chapter. Felix and the Red Rats was a real pleasure to read. Strongly recommended. I liked the puzzle too; took me a while to solve it.

Simon Litten, Science Fiction and Fantasy Association of New Zealand

Awards & recognition

Storylines Notable Junior Fiction Award

Awarded  •  2014  •  Storylines Notable Junior Fiction

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