Friday, October 19, 2012

The Halloween Tree

Just finished a book recommended by my friend CC, who says she can't wait to read it to her kids this year. Since this friend of mine usually has good taste in books among other things, I decided to pick it up myself.  The book is The Halloween Tree by the late Ray Bradbury and if the author and friend recommendation were not enough to grab this book, the cover sealed the deal
The Halloween Tree
See it is totally awesomely creepy and cool and kinda nostalgic all at the same time...which is actually the perfect way to describe this book.  The story is set during a time when it was ok to let the kids go out trick or treating on their own, their is no signs of cell-phones or gaming systems, just a bunch of boys out looking for adventure.
The story is told in a very loose whimsical fashion, very lyrical and almost visual in it's execution.  The gist of the plot is a group of boys go trick or treating, all dressed as a different Halloween staple, a skeleton, a witch, a mummy, a gargoyle, a beggar, an ape man, a ghost, and the grim reaper.  The boys are all excited to get started, but they are missing their fearless leader, Pipkin.  They eventually find Pipkin looking tired and ill, but he tells the boys to go ahead and meet him at the big scary house outside of town.  The boys go to the house which is described as only a little boy could see it terrifying and defying all laws of physics.  The boys then go around back and behold a magnificent giant of a tree that is covered in carved pumpkins lit up as high as the eye can see.  Here they meet the owner of this spooky abode Carapace Clavicle Moundshroud (If I ever get a gerbil that is what I am naming him) who after scaring the boys half to death points out that Pipkin is on his way.  The boys watch as Pipkin comes running to meet them, but is instead swept away by a mysterious force.  Moundshroud rallies the remaining boys to make a giant kite out of old circus posters and 
they are taken to ancient Egypt where they see a burial procession.  Moundshroud starts to tell the boys of some of the history of death, and why they wear the various costumes they have on.  They hear Pipkin trapped inside a mummy casket and try to rescue him to no avail.  The adventure continues through cave man days, Mediterranean death days, old Roman rituals, Irish druid Samhain festivals, a broomstick migration, Notre Dame, Mexico's El Dia de los Mueros, and finally to an underground catacomb where they finally find Pipkin.  Moundshroud tells the boys the only way to save their friend is if they each agree to give up one year of their life in exchange for Pipkins.  This means that if you were supposed to die at age 87 you would die at age 86 instead.  All of the boys readily give up their year and Pipkin is saved.  At the end of the story Halloween is over for the year and the adventure has come to an end.  All of the boys make their way home and one by one extinguish their jack o'lanterns and as the last candle is blown out, the Halloween Tree goes dark.
This book was oddly scary, yet very sweet all at the same time.  The way it is written gives you the feeling of constant frantic movement, confusion, glimpses of this and that, never really letting it's characters, or the reader catch their breath.  It is a pretty quick read, with very short chapters, which would be great for kids to read.  The words are beautiful and fun to say out loud, which again would be great for kids who are learning how to read bigger words. It also piqued my interest in the origins of what we know as Halloween, it is a great opportunity to explore other cultures and times and how they all contributed to modern day Halloween.  All in all I would highly recommend this book for the month of October, it is good for all ages and will stick in your head long after you have finished it.
What is your go to Halloween classic?  Do you like scaring yourself?  What were you afraid of when you were younger?  Why do you always feel braver with a mask/costume on?

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