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The Halloween Tree, by Ray Bradbury Book Review | SFReader.com
The Halloween Tree, by Ray Bradbury Genre: Fantasy Publisher: Bantam Published: 1999 Review Posted: 9/21/2006 Reviewer Rating:
Reader Rating: 8 out of 10
The Halloween Tree, by Ray Bradbury
Book Review by Kate Savage
Have you read this book?
The Halloween Tree by Ray Bradbury has been bandied about as the Halloween's equivalent to Charles Dickinson's A Christmas Carol. It is the story of nine boys having a grand adventure on Halloween. Eight boys gather in anticipation of a trick-or-treating but pull up short when they realize Pipkin is missing. Who is he? "Joe Pipkin is the greatest boy who ever lived. The grandest boy who ever fell out of a tree and laughed at the joke. The finest boy who ever raced around the track, winning and then, seeing his friends a mile back somewhere, stumbled and fell, waited for them to catch up, and joined, breast and breast, breaking the winner's tape. The jolliest boy who ever hunted out all the haunted houses in town, which are hard to find, and to come back to report on them and take all the kids to ramble through the basements and scramble up the ivy outside-bricks and shout down the chimneys and make water off the roofs, hooting and chimpanzee-dancing and ape-bellowing. The day Joe Pipkin was born all the Orange Crush and Nehi soda bottles in the world fizzed over; and joyful bees swarmed the countryside to sting maiden ladies. On his birthdays, the lake pulled out from the shore in midsummer and ran back with a tidal wave of boys, a big leap of bodies and a down-crash of laughs."
Pipkin cannot join the gang because he is ill. He tells his friends to go to the haunted house in the ravine and will do his best to join them. Next to the haunted house the boys find a supernatural tree called the Halloween tree. There, they meet the mysterious Mr. Moundshroud. It turns out Pipkin's life is in danger and it is up to the gang of boys to follow Mr. Moundshroud on an epic time travel adventure to find the true meaning of Halloween and in doing so, to save Pipkin through self-sacrifice.
The Halloween Tree has a trite and predictable storyline. The characters were one dimensional. The prose style Bradbury elected to use was hyperbolic to the point of a saccharine mania. The central theme of the story was to travel back in time to find the true meaning of Halloween. Unfortunately, the history of Halloween he presented was not accurate. Samhain was not a grim reaper-like god; rather it was a pagan festival that is the basis of the Halloween tradition.* Bradbury also got the myth of Osiris mixed up with that of Ra. ** Bradbury either did not check his facts or, as in The Martian Chronicles, decided not to let the facts get in the way of a "good" story. While some may argue this book was written as an allegory so accuracy is moot, I would say allegories work best when their weakness are not such an obvious distraction.
This is a juvenile book that does not work well for the adult reader. It is not in the same league as the Dicken's A Christmas Carol. I hesitate to recommend it for kids but some may enjoy its simple storyline and it gives a superficial overview of how death has been viewed throughout history.