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  • Published: 1 February 2022
  • ISBN: 9780143775492
  • Imprint: RHNZ Vintage
  • Format: Trade Paperback
  • Pages: 304
  • RRP: $36.00

The Frog Prince

Why did the princess throw the frog against the wall? A novel about a disappearance, searching for love and the power of stories.

A disappearance. An infatuation. The Frog Prince is an intriguing, multi-layered novel giving us a story, within a story, within a story.

Remember the kiss between the frog prince and the princess? What about the part where the princess angrily flings the frog against the wall?

What was that about?

At an international school in France, the young teacher Cara writes her own version of the classic tale by the Brothers Grimm. Their fairy tale is nothing like Cara’s relationship with David, but when Cara disappears, can the story help David unravel what has happened?

As for the various princesses and frogs in this intriguing multi-layered novel, will any live happily ever after?

This is a stunning debut adult novel by James Norcliffe, who is renowned for his award-winning children’s books and for his poems, which David Eggleton says ‘invariably get us to attend more closely to the spirit of existence, to moments of being’.

  • Published: 1 February 2022
  • ISBN: 9780143775492
  • Imprint: RHNZ Vintage
  • Format: Trade Paperback
  • Pages: 304
  • RRP: $36.00

About the author

James Norcliffe

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

In December 2022 he was awarded the Prime Minister's Award for Literary Achievement in Poetry, which he told writer Paula Morris was 'the ultimate validation' of his writing career.

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 The Frog Prince

The Frog Prince is anything but narrow in focus, its author including literary history and technique, children's folk stories, 20th century European history and human relationships with all their faults and missteps. It is also highly engaging . . . Norcliffe's delight of landscape, nature, myth and pure love of story power through the work. Throughout his interweaving stories, art's aesthetics and pure enchantment work to burst out of reality's murky and uncertain depths.

Jessie Neilson, Kete

He is able to sort of invest the ordinary world with magical numinous qualities to make it rich and strange . . . This is a wonderfully subversive retelling of the conventional storytelling. Usually in those stories the male is virile, powerful, handsome, and the female is sort of passive and virginal, well, in this story Cara is emphatically not virginal and certainly not passive. David on the other hand, the prince if you like, is diffident, he's tentative . . . one of Norcliffe's achievements in the book is, as I say, to invert, subvert the traditional fairy story and move you towards an ending . . which is unexpected, successfully unclimactic . . . a very accomplished, lucid stylist, and he holds a complicated plot and major range of characters together right through the novel.

David Hill, Radio NZ

A charming novel that explores the possible origins of the fairy tale ‘The Frog Prince or Iron Heinrich’, Norcliffe employs a neat dual narrative structure to understand how stories change when ‘context changes’. . . . Norcliffe’s writing is jovial and sweet, and the gorgeous cover rightly indicates the light-hearted fiction within. Though some of the passages are dialogue heavy, there’s a wonderful warmth in the style and tone. . . . The Frog Prince is a delightful novel about the power of love and the stories that shape our lives. Entertaining and engaging, Norcliffe’s gentle style will appeal to many readers.

Josie Shapiro, ANZL

Christchurch author James Norcliffe is best known to me for his wonderful books for children, so this title was a real surprise. His adult debut creates a backstory for the Grimm Brothers fairytale, but adds a modern take of love and loss. There’s a Kiwi link as the three stories stretch across continents and centuries. I loved it.

Kate Watson, Style

Most of us grew up on the Brothers Grimm's fairy tales . . . They're pretty brutal stories for kids. Norcliffe's novel successfully weaves the Frog Prince story with a modern love story that goes horribly wrong . . . you'll be intrigued to see where the fairytale and modern romance collide.

Linda Thompson, Wairarapa Times Age

Awards & recognition

New Zealand Booklovers Awards

Shortlisted  •  2023  •  NZ Booklovers Awards

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The Frog Prince book club conversation starters

James Norcliffe shares discussion points and questions for his new book The Frog Prince in this book club guide.