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82 of 85 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Haunting as Mr. Moundshroud, October 27, 2004
This review is from: The Halloween Tree (Paperback)
"Halloween Tree" recaptures the surreal spookiness of a child's Halloween with the knowledge of an adult. One of Ray Bradbury's relatively few books for children is a wildly imaginative ride, with a strong subtext about friendship and death itself.

Eight young boys congregate to go trick-or-treating on Halloween night; the only one missing is Pipkin, the universal favorite (Bradbury devotes an entire chapter to singing Pip's praises). Pipkin does show up, but he acts strangely and isn't wearing a costume. When they show up at the House, a haunted edifice, they find the sinister, skeletal Mr. Carapace Clavicle Moundshroud and an enormous tree hung with jack-o-lanterns -- a Halloween tree. Pipkin appears nearby, and then is carried off into the darkness.

To save Pip, Moundshroud takes the boys on a strange trip through time and space, through history and across the world. He shows them the death-related rituals that spawned Halloween: Egypt's mummies, the Celtic Samhain and its lord of the dead, the Christian All Hallows Eve, the Mexican El Dia De Muerte, and others. Through time and across the world, they chase Pipkin and try to save him -- but what can they do against death?

Halloween books are generally the realm of the under-eight crowd. At a certain point in life, it's just hard to recapture that magic -- it's like a darker version of Christmas. But Ray Bradbury, who has been captivating people with his dark-edged fantasy for years, presents a uniquely gothic, uplifting story in this book.

Ray Bradbury's deft touch keeps this particular story from becoming too leaden and heavy-handed. Kids will be fascinated by the origins of Halloween, a holiday now relegated to candy and costumes; the descriptions of different cultures and what helped shape the Halloween we know today are handled excellently. He also does not become judgemental about any of the cultures, such as ancient Romans, Celts, and Christians, but merely presents how civilizations rise and fall, and how their traditions linger on.

None of the boys are really developed too intricately, and remain simply young brave boys who are willing to go through the fire for their friend. Mr. Moundshroud is alternately sinister or kindly: considering who he turns out to be, the sinisterness is not surprising, but he also sympathizes with the boys and allays their fears. The writing is excellent, almost dreamlike, with the sort of delightful overkill that characterizes really good spinechillers. The descriptions of the House and the Halloween tree are the best examples of this.

"Halloween Tree" succeeds in being a good fantasy, a good spinechiller, a good glimpse back in history, and an excellent story about friendship all in one. A wonderful read, and not just for Halloween either.
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Showing 1-2 of 2 posts in this discussion
Initial post: Oct 7, 2010 12:39:20 PM PDT
thank you, e.a. solinas, for your fabulous review. i ordered this book for my 21 year old daughter chelsea. halloween is and always has been her favorite holiday...

Posted on Dec 3, 2010 6:36:30 PM PST
Last edited by the author on Dec 3, 2010 6:46:04 PM PST
We first saw the movie made of this novel over a decade ago and bought the VHS. I wish they would make it into a DVD as it is one of my children's all-time favorite Halloween movies. If you are able to, see the movie. It stays pretty close to Bradbury's novel.

here's the video (you will have to watch all the parts):
http://thehalloweentree2.blogspot.com/
The music and acting are superbly done. I believe Bradbury himself wrote the screenplay.
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