The Halloween Tree

Posted May 24th, 2017 by Halloweenish

“A fast-moving, eerie…tale set on Halloween night. 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. After witnessing a funeral procession in ancient Egypt, cavemen discovering fire, Druid rites, the persecution of witches in the Dark Ages, and the gargoyles of Notre Dame, they catch up with the elusive Pipkin in the catacombs of Mexico, where each boy gives one year from the end of his life to save Pipkin’s. Enhanced by appropriately haunting black-and-white drawings.”–BooklistSpecial indeed are holiday stories with the right mix of high spirits and subtle mystery to please both adults and children–Charles Dickens’s “A Christmas Carol,” for example. Or Ray Bradbury’s classic The Halloween Tree. Eight boys set out on a Halloween night and are led into the depths of the past by a tall, mysterious character named Moundshroud. They ride on a black wind to autumn scenes in distant lands and times, where they witness other ways of celebrating this holiday about the dark time of year. Bradbury’s lyrical prose whooshes along with the pell-mell rhythms of children running at night, screaming and laughing, and the reader is carried along by its sheer exuberance.

Bradbury’s stories about children are always attended by dread–of change, adulthood, death. The Halloween Tree, while sweeter than his adult literature, is also touched at moments by the cold specter of loss–which is only fitting, of course, for a holiday in honor of the waning of the sun.

This is a superb book for adults to read to children, a way to teach them, quite painlessly, about customs and imagery related to Halloween from ancient Egypt, Mediterranean cultures, Celtic Druidism, Mexico, and even a cathedral in Paris. (One caveat, though: Bradbury unfortunately perpetuates a couple of misconceptions about Samhain, or summer’s end, the Halloween of ancient Celts and contemporary pagans.) This beautiful reprint edition has the original black-and-white illustrations and a new color painting on the dust jacket. –Fiona Webster

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