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Review: The Halloween Tree by Ray Bradbury

Friday, October 31, 2014

The Halloween Tree
Ray Bradbury

Genre: FantasySupernatural
Paperback: 145 Pages
Publication: September 7, 1999 (originally 1972)
by Yearling

Eight costumed boys running to meet their friend Pipkin at the haunted house outside town encounter instead the huge and cadaverous Mr. Moundshroud. As Pipkin scrambles to join them, he is swept away by a dark Something, and Moundshroud leads the boys on the tail of a kite through time and space to search the past for their friend and the meaning of Halloween. 


Happy Halloween, readers! When I saw that my review for this week would fall on the best day of the year, there was no other thought on my mind. I HAD to read this book; the occasion was JUST right for it. Not to mention the fact that I also started the month with another Bradbury review, so it only made sense to close it with one.

I loved Bradbury's prose in this book. Since it's for a younger audience than the last book of his I read, the words were somewhat simpler, certainly easy enough for a kid but still at a level to where an adult can read the book. The descriptions were fantastic, especially of Mr. Moundshroud and his varying appearances, as well as the Halloween Tree itself. All of the places the boys travel to and the sights they see were very well painted and easy to picture. The fact that the boys travel through space and time to see how Halloween traditions got their starts was really great, especially because they went to places that tied in with the costumes they were wearing. The sequences where the boys see the traditions in motion were incredibly well done also and could make for interesting discussion, especially with kids, about how Halloween is celebrated in different cultures.

Of the characters, I really liked Mr. Moundshroud. For any Are You Afraid of the Dark? fans reading this, he kind of reminded me of Sardo, the owner of the magic shop who sold magical objects to the protagonists of the stories. Moundshroud serves as a guide to the boys on their journey and changes his appearance according to where they end up, which I really liked. He's not an antagonist, but there is a secret revealed about him towards the end that really makes sense when you think about it.

While this may not be much of a problem for younger readers, I had a little trouble keeping track of the characters. The number of them wasn't so much the issue as was the lack of real characterization. It also got confusing about halfway through the book when the narrative started to call the boys by their names; before that, they were called by the costumes they wore (beggar, mummy, ghost, etc.). I also would've liked a little more on the friendship among the nine boys, especially on the main eight's relationship with Pipkin. We're told that he's pretty the best friend these kids could ask for, but I wanted more justification for those feelings.

Like the last Bradbury book I reviewed, there was an interesting message lying under the events of this story. Here, we get the question of just how much you would do for a friend, in particular a friend who is very dear to you. Though the boys are only eleven or twelve years old, they make a decision that would even be difficult for a group of adults to make. I think their ability to do this so easily also serves as a comment on their innocence; since they're such young boys, they don't know about the craziness that can come about with grudges and petty arguments. Since these are things they don't seem to be familiar with, they don't hesitate to pay the price for Pipkin's safe return.

Overall, this is definitely a book I would recommend for kids or for anyone with that childlike sense of imagination and wonder. The adventure the characters go on is great fun to follow along, and the underlying thought behind the story is touching, but not in a cheesy way. And it all takes place on the best night of all, Halloween! Seriously, check this book out. Again, happy Halloween, readers! Have fun and stay spooky.

Rating: 4.5 stars

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