The Halloween Tree
Ray Bradbury, author
Joseph Mugnaini, illustrator
Borzoi Book, Alfred A. Knopf, Random House, 2000
originally published 1972
The Halloween Tree is a book for kids about a gang of 9 boys who discover the meaning of Halloween. The boys are 12-13 years old starting out on Halloween Night to go trick or treating when they notice one of their number is missing. They end up at a haunted house and meet a man (ghost? spirit?) who takes them on a journey back through time.
The Gang of Boys:
• Tom Skelton, dressed as a skeleton for the evening
• Joe Pipkin, kidnapped by spirits and taken back in time
• Henry-Hank Smith, disguised as a witch
• Ralph Bengstrum, spent all day wrapping himself in gauze to be a mummy
• Fred Fryer, a beggar for Halloween
• J.J. (no other name needed)as Apeman
• Hackles Nibley is Death with a scythe
• George Smith, a ghost in bedsheets
• Wally Babb, made himself to be a gargoyle
• Carapace Clavicle Moundshroud, or Mr. Moundshroud, for short
On their travels they learn how death was celebrated by cavemen, Egyptians, Druids, Romans, witches during the Dark Ages, builders of the great cathedrals of Europe and finally during the Day of the Dead celebrations in Mexico.
Toby raved and raved about the Ray Bradbury books he has read so far and I was really looking forward to a great read. I will admit I was a bit disappointed. It’s exciting, fast paced and has some great characters and descriptive scenes (all Bradbury-esque according to Toby); but I felt like I was in school learning a lesson about Halloween. I guess I didn’t like the way the spirit character, Mr. Moundshroud, told the story, i.e., taught the lesson; it was a bit preachy, or rather, too professor-ish for me. Had the author told the story not in terms of a lesson, but just like his other short stories I think I would have enjoyed it much more. Nonetheless, it remains a fun, spooky story for kids.
Rating: 3 paws out of 5 because the disappointment was just too great for me to want to read it again.
By the way, this is the third book of Mr. Bradbury’s that we’ve read where his young male protagonists are either 12 or 13 years old. There was Douglas in Dandelion Wine, Will and Jim in Something Wicked This Way Comes, and now these 9 boys. I wonder if it is because that is the magic age for him – according to the introductions to his various books we’ve read he has stated that when he was 12 he started writing and had written everyday of his life since then (and presumably until he passed from this world to the next).
Other book covers: