> Skip to content
  • Published: 1 May 2017
  • ISBN: 9780143770688
  • Imprint: Penguin eBooks
  • Format: EBook
  • Pages: 240

Twice Upon a Time

A very good very bad story




An enchanting story of a story, Twice Upon a Time is a charming junior fiction novel by award-winning writer James Norcliffe.

An enchanting story of a story, Twice Upon a Time is a charming junior fiction novel by award-winning writer James Norcliffe.

What happens when you find yourself trapped inside a story?
What happens if the only way out is to solve the riddles of the Very Bad Very Good Storyteller, Mr Aesop Sod?
And where, oh where, is Pop?
Ginny and her strange new friend, Digger Dagger, must navigate their way through this upside down, topsy turvy world where Don's Dairy has become Nod's Diary, the fish and chip shop is full of tropical fish tanks and wood chips, and the ghost train at the fun fair really is a ghost train.
How will the story end? Will Ginny and Digger Dagger find the answers they need?
Sometimes the answers are right there in front of you.
Award-winning author James Norcliffe has written a delightful story full of wordplay, old-world charm and imagination, reminiscent of Alice in Wonderland.

  • Published: 1 May 2017
  • ISBN: 9780143770688
  • Imprint: Penguin eBooks
  • Format: EBook
  • Pages: 240

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

See all

Praise for Twice Upon a Time

Twice Upon a Time is a delightful story full of wordplay, old-world charm and imagination, reminiscent of Alice in Wonderland.

Graham Beattie, Beattie's Book Blog

At heart, Twice Upon a Time is a story about dualism. The light and dark, kind and wicked, double-sided nature of people, objects and words are explored in this quirky tale. The book has a dreamlike quality in which nothing is as it seems and first impressions can mislead. There are puns and jokes and the author delights in playing with language. Young children will find the story funny and exciting while older readers will appreciate the humour and may recognise echoes from stories they have enjoyed in the past. The rhymes and palindromes provide a painless immersion in rich language.

Judith Laube, NZ Book Council

The way that the story combines such imaginative magical themes with settings that are so uniquely New Zealand is exactly what made The Loblolly Boy such a fabulous read. With imaginative characters, fast-paced dialogue and a great deal of lamingtons, Twice Upon a Time is a wonderfully fresh fantasy novel. I think that this book will be hugely popular with children who have a penchant for magic, quests and puzzles. As with all of James Norcliffe’s work, the writing is juicy with clever wordplay; it isn’t dry for a second, and will hook readers of all kinds.

Tierney Reardon, Booksellers NZ Blog

The mischievous wordplay, provocatively twisted plotline and numerous inside jokes mean that this book is probably most likely to be enjoyed by sophisticated readers of about 9 to 12, especially those who are already fans of James Norcliffe’s previous books.

Lorraine Orman, Magpies

Twice Upon a Time is underpinned by friendship and fun. . . . It's fast, persuasive, engaging. It's also neatly placed in the contemporary world: single-parent family; laptop; sugar rushes; a hint of dementia; a touch of New Age channelling. . . . This all suits a book energised by verbal invention, springy dialogue, existential questions, an occasional surfeit of adjectives, and the special logic of childhood. Norcliffe makes rewarding use of language's sheer improbability. Does a spitting image really spit? Why does one go back to the drawing-board, and not to the ironing- or diving-board. What's a quibble? . . . Warm, witty, and occasionally rather wise, witha nice leavening of mischief.

David Hill, NZ Books

I think Twice Upon a Time is going to be a boon to every teacher and bookseller who has wondered what to recommend after the 'Faraway Tree' series. However, the language has a lot more depth and imagination than Blyton's and I can see teachers rubbing their hands together as they get the kids involved dissecting the tricks and trips of the tongue Norcliffe uses to bring his characters to life. . . . Do you need any more convincing?! I reckon you should put Twice Upon a Time on your shelf alongside the classics: it’s traditional quest storytelling at its best, from a master of the form.

Sarah Forster, The Sapling

An enchanting story of a story, Twice Upon a Time is a charming junior fiction novel by award-winning writer James Norcliffe. . . . a delightful story full of wordplay, old-world charm and imagination, reminiscent of Alice in Wonderland.

Tomorrow's Schools Today NZ

A delightful junior novel with lots of wordplay. Think Alice in Wonderland.

Horowhenua Chronicle, Linda Hall

Related titles