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The Crate: A Ghost Story

A dark lake with darker secrets.

The bizarre delivery of a mysterious crate.

A fortune teller unnerved by what she reads in a palm. 

Why is the past reaching for the present with such bony fingers?

For the four teenagers staying near a West Coast lake, what begins as an intriguing puzzle ends with the most terrifying night of their lives, a night that will change them forever...

The book is currently available from:

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Mallory, Mallory, Trick or Treat

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Mallory, Mallory, Trick or Treat


  It's Halloween and Mallory has a trick up her sleeve!

Scheming Mallory and her reluctant sidekick Arthur have a Halloween misadventure involving nasty tricks, time travel and a sneaky cat.

Mallory wants candy, as much as she can grab, and she’s prepared to play some tricks (and kick a pesky black cat) to get it. But when she and her reluctant sidekick Arthur tangle with the owner of a spooky old house, the trick is on them. In the beat of a bat’s wing, they’re a century back in time with a mission to find that slippery cat, or Mallory will change shape forever . . . 

From the magical pen of James Norcliffe, and with fantastical illustrations by Emily Walker, Mallory, Mallory: Trick or Treat is a spooky tale of time travel and intrigue, and people getting their (un)just desserts.

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Mallory, Mallory, The Revenge of the Tooth Fairy

Mallory, Mallory  - The Revenge of the Tooth Fairy was published in 2020 by Puffin.

Here is how it is described in the blurb:

A cunning kidnap and blackmail plot...what could go wrong?


Mallory is a nasty piece of work. She's a schemer, a liar and a cheat. Her one friend is Arthur, who only puts up with her because he has no one else. When Mallory loses a tooth, she comes up with an evil idea to capture and kidnap the tooth fairy for an endless supply of money. But it's never a good idea to meddle with a magical creature, and Mallory and Arthur are about to find just how bad it can get.




Twice upon a Time (Puffin)

Twice Upon a Time was published in 2017.

Here is how it is described on the Penguin Random House NZ website:

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?

Award-winning author James Norcliffe has written a delightful story full of wordplay, old-world charm and imagination, reminiscent of Alice in Wonderland.

There have been some pleasant reviews of Twice Upon a Time.


- The Sapling -

- The Reader (The Booksellers NZ Blog) -

'Poet and children’s writer James Norcliffe is a national treasure. He has been involved in the School for Young Writers in Christchurch for many years, and releases both poetry and junior fiction books regularly. Sarah Forster reviews his latest novel for children.'

'When Ginny meets a gnome named Digger Dagger in her garden, neither of them are sure where in the world he has come from. There isn’t much time for wondering, however – Ginny’s beloved Pop has gone missing, and not even the police can seem to find him!'


The Pirates and the Nightmaker

The Pirates and the Nightmaker was published in 2016.

Here is how it is described on the Random House Website:  

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? -
See more at: 


- From Barbara Murison's blog
Around the Bookshops  

'The hub of this story is a magic astrolabe which must be guarded at all costs from the sinister Mr Wicker. Add castaways, a ghost ship, pirates and an invisible boy with emerald green wings and a meticulously written and devised story emerges that will be hard to put down whether or not the reader has already met the Loblolly Boy and wondered about his origins. The reader feels safe in the hands of a master storyteller and totally satisfied with the ending that comes as a great surprise.  Don’t spoilt it for yourself by looking at the last few pages!!' 

- From Bobs Books Blog by Bob Docherty -

The Pirates and the Nightmaker by James Norcliffe. Pub. Longacre, 2015.  

After I had read James Norcliffe’s two novels about the Loblolly Boy I wondered how the Loblolly Boy had come into existence, who was the mysterious Captain Bass and what was the significance of the astrolabe. If you are of the same mind read this latest novel and find out.

Even if you are not this novel is quite fascinating and once you start it will draw you in and keep you hanging on till the story is told.


Felix and the Red Rats

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.


- Gillian Vine in the Otago Daily Times -

'The story-within-a-story technique is not new but in Felix and the Red Rats, James Norcliffe gives it a neat twist. David's Great-uncle Felix, a writer of children's books set in a land called Axillaris, comes to stay. David's brother, Gray, is unimpressed, especially when he discovers that the hero of the Axillaris books it called Felix. ''What a bighead,'' he scoffs. Then strange things start happening, beginning with Gray's white rats turning red. Meanwhile, David is re-reading his favourite Axillaris book - reproduced between the present-day action - and it slowly dawns on him that it is not fiction but an account of Felix's genuine experience.

But what is the significance of the red rats? An entertaining novel for readers aged 10 and above.

- Simon Litten on the NZFFANZ Site -

'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 too.

This book comprises the story of David, his Uncle Felix and some rats under the care of David’s brother that have turned a bright tomato red. Within the book is a story being read by David but written by Uncle Felix about his first adventure in the fantasy land of Axillaris.

David’s story is a mystery tale – just why are rats and then cats turning red – without murders but with a very grumpy elder brother...'


The Enchanted Flute

A flute that will only play one mysterious song? A strange old man in a wheel chair somehow rejuvenated by this music? A leap from a window into a strange and often frightening world where nobody can be trusted and from which there seems to be no escape?


The Enchanted Flute sweeps Becky Pym and Johnny Cadman from the realities of modern day school and the suburbs into an ancient Arcadian world where an old battle is about to be reignited and where even older forces are preparing themselves.


The flute Becky's mother bought at a pawn shop proves to be a catalyst, a prize all forces seek. Becky herself, as the one who plays its enchanted music, becomes the focus of their needs and animosities. Lost, pursued, separated at times, Becky and Johnny are swept along by events out of their control until the final confrontation between ancient enemies. A wonderfully inventive story resounding with familiar myths and old stories, but typically grounded in a contemporary sense.


It's a delightfully, believable fantasy charged with musical language and a dangerous, menacing edge.


The Loblolly Boy and the Sorcerer 

The story picks up where we left off with the loblolly boy.

Michael convinces the unhappy boy at the Great Hall toExchange with him once again and leaves with his sisters and mother to return home. The loblolly boy immediately flies off to see Captain Bass to ask for help: he doesn’t want to be an invisible, isolated loblolly boy any longer.

Characteristically unsympathetic, the Captain sings the boy a song that holds the secret clues to finding his home. He is warned: trust, seek, beware and fear the Jugglers, the Gadget Man and the Sorcerer.

Complications, twists and stunts abound once the mischievous and perverse Sorcerer and the bumbling but well-meaning Gadget Man decide to assist in the bizarre turn of events: a waiter is turned into a mad dog, a boy into a cockatoo, a skeleton key comes to life.

Released: 01 April 2011
Imprint: Longacre / Random House

The Loblolly Boy

From the back cover:

To the boy called Red, it seemed the most marvellous escape he could wish for: a gift that grants him more freedom than he ever believed possible - the chance to fly, to soar with the gulls, high over the tall brick walls that have imprisoned him for so long.

But this gift comes with a terrible price - and puts him in grave danger.

Is there anyone Red can trust to help him? The curious Captain Bass who has strange powers of his own? The wildly unpredictable twin sisters he is strangely drawn to?

In this magical, mysterious story, Red's adventure is like a chamber of mirrors at a carnival - a dazzling and breathtaking tale.

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The Loblolly Boy various editions

Published as The Strange and Diverting Story of The Loblolly Boy a Fantasy Novel involving Enchantment, Mystery, one Garden Gnome and a Wombat's Bottom by Longacre Press, a division of Random House NZ in New Zealand in 2009.


Published as The Loblolly Boy by Allen & Unwin in Australia, 2009.


Also published in Australia as an audio book by Louis Braille Audio (2010).


Published as The Boy Who Could Fly by Egmont USA in the United States, 2010.


The cover of the Egmont USA Library Edition of the book.

To the boy called Red, it seems the most marvellous escape he could wish for: a gift that grants him more freedom than he ever believed possible - the chance to fly, to soar with the gulls, high over the tall brick walls that have imprisoned him for so long.  But this gift comes with a terrible price - and puts him in grave danger.

Is there anyone Red can trust to help him? The curious Captain Bass who has strange powers of his own? The wildly unpredictable twin sisters he is strangely drawn to?

In this magical, mysterious story, Red's adventure is like a chamber of mirrors at a carnival - a dazzliong and breath taking tale.

"This is a rich fantasy - alive with original twists and mysteries which I dare not reveal. Children's literature is about to be enriched with a new classic."  Margaret Mahy.


  • Winner Junior Fiction Award at the New Zealand Post Children's Book Awards, 2010.

  • Shortlisted for 2010 LIANZA Esther Glen Medal.

  • Shortlisted for 2010 Sir Julius Vogel Award

  • Storylines Notable Book, 2010

  • 2011 USBBY Outstanding International Books List (a list of the 40 outstanding international children's books published or distruibuted in the USA).

'...Norcliffe’s delightful prose, humour and adult insights ensure that he has written that rare children’s book, as much a joy for adults to read as for children... So go on, pick up a copy for your kids, your nephews and nieces, your younger siblings, whomever you want. Just make sure you read it first!...'

'...The Loblolly Boy is intriguing, engrossing and wholly satisfying... a highly original fantasy story, and surprisingly for someone who does not read or usually like fantasy, this one I highly recommend...'

-  Pat Pledger Review from Read Plus -

'...A unique and original fantasy, complete with adventure, magic and appealing characters, this is a tale that was hard to put down....'

-  Janice Rodriguez Review from National Library of New Zealand -

'...a fast paced narrative, full of surprises, imagination and humour...'

-  Jean Bennett in Bookrapt -

'...This sparkling fantasy novel explores a child’s need to be with his own family – even if they are fractured, poor and struggling to cope. The author writes with rare insight into the mind of a young person discovering what is of lasting value in life. Highly recommended.'

-  Booklist (USA) -

'... an imaginative and richly atmospheric fantasy with sympathetic characters. ... a haunting story that will capture most readers’ imaginations....  '

-  George Ivanoff in  Australian Speculative Fiction in Focus (ASFF) -

'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. '

- Gerard Woods Review from Science Fiction World -

- Fran Knight Review from Read Plus -

Reviews & Awards


The Assassin of Gleam

Launched by internationally acclaimed children's, young adult and fantasy author, Margaret Mahy

Anchored in a fearsome past of tyrant rulers and black magic, Gleam is a fiefdom gripped in the clutches of its ruler, the Markgrave, who has crushed freedom and hope.

An ancient prophecy promises a bright new beginning for Gleam, but to destroy any chance of its being fulfilled, the Markgrave seeks the help of the Brotherhood, a mysterious order of scholars and practitioners of the dark arts.

Into this menacing world comes a young woman, Johanna, and her brother, Tobias.

Date: 2006

Publisher: Hazard Press

Reviews & Awards


  • Winner 2007 Sir Julius Vogel Award for best New Zealand Science Fiction / Fantasy novel 2006

  • Shortlisted for the LIANZA Esther Glen Medal, 2007

'An experienced and popular writer of children's and young adult fiction, Norcliffe draws on his experience as historian and poet to create a logical, believable and exciting story out of an alienating and threatening world, the ancient fiefdom of Gleam where good is taking a thrashing from evil, and a particularly nasty villain, the Markgrave, keeps his people enslaved.'

- Trevor Agnew The Christchurch Press -

'On a planet with two moons, the lost city of Gleam is ruled by the tyrant Markgrave. As the turn of the century approaches, his hereditary reign is threatened by the bubbling-up among his cowed subjects of a prophecy about a Maiden who will bring them freedom...'

'The city of Gleam is in the hands of the tyrant, Markgrave, who rules with a paranoid iron first. As the end of the century approaches, the Markgraves’ hereditary reign is threatened by the whispers of a prophecy about a maiden who will bring freedom to the people of Gleam.'

- Heather Murray New Zealand Books Autumn 2007 -

- Dave Pope Hawkes Bay Today -


The Carousel Experiment

When Larry discovers a letter from his mother he can’t understand why the return address is Christchurch and not the ashram in India his father had told him about. Determined to find his mother, Larry sets off to the mysterious Carousel Caravan Park and encounters more than he bargained for - giant caretakers with miniature children, drugged food and campers in a dream-like trance, the secretive Amy, alien archaeologists...


The Carousel Caravan Park turns out to be far more than simply a holiday getaway, and it’s up to Larry to save not only himself, but all of its ‘willing’ guests.

Date 1995

Publisher: Hazard Press

ISBN: 0-908790-86-4 


The Emerald Encyclopedia

The Emerald Encyclopedia glowed with possibilities Fraser could not resist. But why did it promise so much, and then deliver so little? And why did each promise contain an increasingly sinister catch? Could Fraser resist the dark forces attempting to manipulate him, or would he betray everything he held most precious? Honour Award, Senior Fiction Category, AIM Children’s Book Awards, 1995.

Date: 1994

Publisher: Hazard Press

ISBN: 0-908790-63-5 


Penguin Bay

All Rufus wanted to do for his sister and the children was a holiday of peace and quiet in the tranquil seclusion of Penguin Bay...

But appearances were deceiving. Their arrival threatened so many things: crimes of the present and ghosts of the past.

Rufus could not have known he was delivering them into a frightening trap from which only courage, ingenuity, and a lot of luck could save them...

Date: 1993

Publisher: Hazard Press


Under the Rotunda

When Tom finds a note under his eiderdown instructing him to be at the rotunda at half past nine that night he doesn;t suspect that he and his friends, Kim and Effer, are about to become entangled in a bizarre and magical adventure.

But then, why would Effer's note also ask him to ring one of their teachers, Bob Horn? And what is the connection between the Blackwater Creek Silver Band and Henry Falco, part magician. Why do these people desperately want the battered old cornet once owned by Tom's grandfather? And why is the sinister and devious bandsman Ginger O'Reilley so determined to get to it first?


Margaret Mahy

From its very first page this book lures the readerwith the promise of an intriguing story... This promise is fulfilled. Under the Rotunda is an intricate joke in which the fortunes of the characters fluctuate alarmingly... I think we could do with many more books like this... good humoured and above all else entertaining.   

Date: 1992

Publisher: Hazard Press

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