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A strange and mischievous story written with exceptional style, pace and grace — a true classic in the making.

A strange and mischievous story written with exceptional style, pace and grace — a true classic in the making.

It’s 1740 . . . The Firefly is taken in the night by pirates who sail the Caribbean. The ship’s boy and a handful of men are set adrift in a jolly-boat. Without food or water the half-starved men eye up the young boy.
Astonishingly, a mysterious Mr Wicker saves the boy by turning him into an unearthly creature — an invisible flying boy with beautiful emerald-green wings.
When the boy is drawn to a ghost ship sailed by Captain Bass, he learns of the dangerous power of a magical astrolabe which Mr Wicker desperately seeks — and why Wicker must never find it.
The boy cannot trust Wicker . . . but is there anyone he can trust? Captain Bass? Sophie Blade, the pirate’s daughter? And who can return him to himself?

2016 Storylines Notable Junior Fiction Award


Norcliffe is a wordsmith whose fiction writing is infused with his poetic talents. He weaves beautiful and intelligent stories that twist and turn effortlessly until you are surprised to reach the end of the book and realise how many hours have passed. Written for the 10-14 age-bracket, this is sophisticated children’s literature that will delight many adults. If you wish to hide this guilty pleasure, I suggest reading the book to your children.

Nick K, Auckland Libraries Staff Picks

a ripping read, full of ghosts, pirates, things marine in general, an excellent mix of fantasy and history

Weekend Herald

Great storytelling by Norcliffe. His imagery, dialogue and description are outstanding.

Dominion Post Weekend

Beautifully written, this historical adventure with a touch of fantasy keeps the reader wanting to know more . . .

Judges' Report, New Zealand Book Awards for Children and Young Adults

Lively and clever

Gillian Vine, Otago Daily Times

Every detail of Norcliffe's story is convincing . . . An historical novel for children with a first-person narrator makes particular demands on the writer, but Norcliffe's prose is exemplary. His language and point-of-view never seem anachronistic, the story rollicks along, and an impatient 10 or 11 year-old would not be unduly challenged by the vocabulary. Norcliffe cares about language and has given the Loblolly Boy a clear and lyrical voice . . . The wonderful and unexpected ending provides an imaginative answer to how one of our great historical figures came to be the man he was.

Eirlys Hunter, New Zealand Books

[A]n exciting pirate adventure

Trevor Agnew, Waikato Times

Great storytelling

Bob Docherty, Dominion Post Weekend

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Formats & editions

  • EBook


    March 6, 2015

    Random House New Zealand

    272 pages

    Online retailers

    • Amazon Kindle NZ
    • iBooks NZ
    • Google Play EBook NZ
    • Kobo Ebook
    • Booktopia NZ

Awards and Recognition

  • New Zealand Book Awards for Children & Young Adults
    Shortlisted for the Junior Fiction Category of the New Zealand Book Awards for Children & Young Adults
  • Storylines Notable Junior Fiction Award
    A 2016 Storylines Notable Book

Also by James Norcliffe