A NCTE Notable Children's Book in the Language Arts 2011
--Children's Literature Assembly, National Council of Teachers of English
Masterful storytelling will keep the pages turning long into the night. Highly recommended
--Young Adult Books - What We're Reading Now Blog
James Riley's novel is more a re-imagined and greatly embroidered fairy tale than it is a fractured one. Highly recommended.
--Children's Literature, Heidi Hauser Green
Half Upon A Time has it all--voice, charming fairy tale characters with a twist, hilarity, and an adventure-filled plot.
The first character we meet in this tale is Jack. But he is not the fairy tale Jack of Beanstalk fame. No, that Jack was this Jack’s father; and this Jack hasn’t seen him since that famous encounter with the giant. Living with his grandfather in the shadow of his father’s reputation as a thief, Jack is a different sort of hero. His education is devoted to learning how to save a princess, since that is the only way to escape his life as a peasant. Unfortunately, Jack doesn’t seem to be very good at it. He alone, of all the village boys, has failed his princess-saving test. Again. Still, that hardly seems to matter when a princess named May unexpectedly drops into his life. Her grandmother is missing, and she needs Jack’s help to save the old woman. Before you know it, Jack is facing witches and wolves, taking on giants and dragons with the best of them. Along the way, he and May pick up a dainty companion (a fairy), a noble companion (Prince Phillip) and a scary companion (the Wolf King). A host of familiar fairy tale characters appear, including—but certainly not limited to—Snow White, Merriweather, Malevolent, Red Riding Hood, the Wicked Queen, the Huntsman, the Seven Dwarves, and Rapunzel. James Riley’s novel is more a re-imagined and greatly embroidered fairy tale than it is a fractured one. “Quick-paced” is an understatement, as our heroes move swiftly from one danger to the next, with hardly a breath in between. The only disappointment is that all of the bad guys get away—but there’s pleasure in that, too, as it means we’ll get to see May, Jack, and Phillip track them down to set things right in a much-anticipated sequel. Highly recommended. - www.childrenslit.com
RILEY, James. Half Upon a Time. 388p. CIP. S & S/Aladdin. 2010. Tr $15.99. ISBN 978-1-4169-9593-7; ebook $9.99. ISBN 978-1-4169-9595-1. LC 2010012714.
Gr 5-9–In his twisted fairy-tale world, hapless young Jack fails his princess-rescuing test, but fate gives him another chance when a circle of blue fire deposits May, wearing a T-shirt that reads “Punk Princess,” into his cottage. Jack recognizes her as a true princess and they set off on a quest to find her grandmother, Snow White. Joined by super-smooth Prince Phillip, and staying just ahead of the giant green Huntsman, they journey to the Black Forest, ride the wicked wolf’s back, release a genie when they break Red Hood’s magic mirror, and spend time in the dungeon of a fairy queen before finding Snow White and seven dwarfs in the Palace of the Snow Queen. Jack is perennially clumsy, and May has a quick, sharp tongue until she trades her sarcasm to save Jack’s life. Snappy dialogue, fast-paced action, unexpected twists, and the inevitable conflicts of a threesome made up of two teenage boys and a pretty girl make this an enjoyable read. A whirlwind ending upsets everything, setting the stage for a sequel.–Kathleen Isaacs, Children’s Literature Specialist, Pasadena, MD
- School Library Journal March 1, 2011