A Visit to the Orchards of Heaven

By Anthony Holcroft,
illustrated by Leah Palmer Preiss

Hazard Press Ltd: Christchurch NZ, 1998

ISBN 1877161268

A collection of nine beautifully crafted stories, where real life, magic, and the supernatural merge.


A Visit to the Orchards of Heaven
Caitlin and the Leprechaun Patrick’s Boots
The Pear Tree in Grandmother’s Garden
The Cave Take it or Leave it The Blue Butterfly
The Girl at Mirror Creek
Maud, the Motorcycle Witch


A Visit to the Orchards of Heaven

Once, long ago in China, a travelling musician visited a small kingdom near the Kuang Lu mountains. Every day he set up his stall in the market-place and astonished the people with his feats of magic.

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Reader comment

“Nine short stories ... grace A Visit To The Orchards Of Heaven. They make an ageless collection: from the tale of a king tricked by his magician, to that of a retired witch who takes up motorcycle riding. Each story is contained and convincing, yet each has a classic resonance to do with eternal themes of greed, secret talents, foolishness, or controlling others. Holcroft’s polished writing shows New Zealand vocabulary — native bush, stock, good keen man — perfectly seamed into stories with a supernatural feel. A triumph.”

Jill Holt, NZ Listener (19 December 1998)

“This is a delightful collection of nine literary fairy tales narrated as only an experienced storyteller can do ... There is magic and suspense in each plot, mostly set in realistic but different places around the world ... A common thread in these tales is the lesson of contentment. The heroes often experience the consequences of following temptation and impetuous desire and, in most tales, finally recognize the satisfaction to be had at home and in human companionship. Each tale is distinct enough in setting, cast of characters and unpredictability of plot to remain memorable. Ilustrated with singular, characteristic vignettes, these tales need only their words to create lively pictures in the mind of the reader or listener.”

International Children’s Digital Library, Munich: White Ravens Award: Special Mention (2008)

“This book is simply superb. It is a collection of stories, mostly set in an old-world landscape of leprechauns and faerie and supernatural magic. Yet there is still a distinctly New Zealand voice here, with wicked magpies and rough bush farms where time is spent fencing and clearing the land. Linking these unlikely landscapes is the unifying imagination of Holcroft, the master storyteller ... Highly recommended.”

Journal of The Children’s Book Council of Australia (February 1999)

A Visit to the Orchards of Heaven is a fine collection of original folk tales and fables from a gifted storyteller. The characters range from modern to magical, including a clever magician, a leprechaun who counts backwards, a magpie, an old man who wishes for eternal youth and a king who is hard to please. As in all good fables, there is a subtle moral message in many of these stories; touching on honesty, freedom, greed, faith, and contentment in life. Holcroft is a skilful writer and his simple style suits this genre. Recommended for children aged 5 to 10, especially to read aloud.”

Raymond Huber Otago Daily Times (23 December 1998)

“... my congratulations on your extraordinary capacity for telling a good story well.”

Dorothy Butler, international authority on children’s books and reading (20 June 1997)