Ray Bradbury is the voice of October. His prose consists of Autumn leaves, cold nights, and the supernatural. Reading Bradbury is much like reading a very long poem – his words twist and weave through the pages, riddled with metaphor and rich allegory. While many will turn to Something Wicked This Way Comes when the need for Fall nostalgia rears its head, there is another option – The Halloween Tree.
The Halloween Tree is to October what Dickens’ A Christmas Carol is to December. It’s a journey that’s both inexplicably haunting while retaining a sense of comfort and warm sweetness; two things that shouldn’t be paired, but nonetheless are. Written in 1972, the story revolves around a group of eight children on Halloween night. Their fearless leader, Pipkin, is unfortunately nowhere to be found. He’s sick – but he shouldn’t be. He’s never sick. And how could the boys have a fun Halloween without him?
While the rest of the boys meet a strange character named Moundshroud near the titular Halloween Tree, the supernatural being leads them on a journey throughout the ages to both find their friend Pipkin and learn the history of Halloween. The tale, though seemingly innocent at first, takes a turn at the end and presents the children with a choice that no young boy should ever have to make, and it’s something deeply somber but emotion. I won’t tell what the choice is; that, of course, would nearly ruin the story for you, the potential reader.
There are three reasons why you should read this book. First, it’s short – it’s only a bit over 150 pages and can be read in a single sitting. Second, the writing alone is so rich and beautiful that Bradbury could be writing about literal manure and it would most likely still be gorgeous. Coupled with the illustrations by Joe Mugnaini, the story really comes to life. The third reason does not exist and I’m not sure why I didn’t just write that there were only two main reasons to read this book in the first place. Those two are reason enough.
And while I have just stated that the story could have been written about something nonsensical, it is anything but. Ah! There we go. I’ve just remembered the third reason. The third reason actually is, the story is good. Which, if you know anything about fictional tales, it’s that good ones are better than bad ones. Duh. The Halloween Tree is most certainly a good one.
It’s a story centered around children, but it’s hardly a children’s book. In content, yes, by all means, children theoretically could read it – but I have a hard time believing most young children would be able to comprehend what’s going on behind Bradbury’s unique writing style. It’s marketed as a book for all ages. However, I believe that the best demographic would be for adults in search of a nostalgic treat.
The next time you find yourself sitting on your porch and feeling that familiar October breeze, you should pick up this book. Forget the horror movies for one day – read this instead. Highly recommended, especially for fans of Something Wicked. And while the aforementioned book reigns supreme – I don’t think any Halloween book could really top it – this is a great supplement to your Bradbury collection. Happy Halloween.