Half Upon a Time

Half Upon a Time

(Book #1 of Half Upon a Time)
For Ages: 8 - 12
  • 3
Jack lives in a fantasy world. Really. He's the son of the infamous Jack who stole the magic beans from the giant, and he's working hard to restore his family's reputation. He finds the perfect opportunity when a "princess" lands in front of him, apparently from the land of Punk, as her Punk Princess sweatshirt implies. May is from our world, and she's utterly confused to find herself in the midst of the fairy tale characters she has read about. But Jack and May have more in common than they realize--and together, they embark on a hilarious and wild adventre in this highly accessible, modern middle grade fantasy novel.


HALF UPON A TIME by James Riley

James Riley uses creativity and clever humor to fracture classic fairy tales in his debut novel, "Half Upon a Time".

Reading Group Guide

A Reading Group Guide to

Half Upon a Time

By James Riley

Discussion Questions

1. Half Upon a Time is full of references to fairy tales and classic stories. How many traditional characters and elements can you identify and name? In what ways do they add humor to the story? In what ways do they influence your expectations of the plot, conflict, and characters?

2. How does the symbolism in the story affect what you’re reading it? For example, if the Wolf King were the Sheep King, how would you expect his character and motives to be different? If the Black Forest were the Orange Forest, would it still be as threatening?

3. At one point when things aren’t going well, May tells Jack, “This isn’t how fairy tales work.” How do fairy tales work? Is it fair to always expect there to be a “happily ever after?” How do you feel when you read or watch a story without a happy ending? Can you name a satisfying story that has an unhappy ending?

4. From the beginning of Chapter 30, “The ride to Malevolent’s castle combined at least three of Jack’s top ten least favorite things.” Name your top ten least favorite things, and ask a few friends for their lists. Do you have any common dislikes? Why is it important for a story to show both a character’s strengths and weaknesses?

5. May tells Jack that “Heroes a see more

More Books from this Author

Find Your Hero Chapter Sampler
Story Thieves
The Half Upon a Time Trilogy
Once Upon the End

About the Author

James Riley
Author Photo by Maarten de Boer

James Riley

James Riley lives in the DC area. He is the author of Half Upon a Time, Twice Upon a Time, and Once Upon the End as well as the Story Thieves series.