4 out of 5 Stars
For Halloween this year we wanted to take a break from the book we were reading (and are still reading at the time I am writing this because it feels like we are living the whole book in real time and it is soooo long!) and read a shorter book with a Halloween theme. When I was at our local bookshop I saw a book called “The Halloween Tree” by Ray Bradbury in the children’s section. The cover makes it look quite scary, which for my 10-year old was a bonus, but after checking with the staff at the shop I learned there are some spooky parts but it isn’t overly scary. As we read I agree with that opinion as well. It takes place on Halloween after all and was written with children in mind so it has to be a little bit spooky.
The book takes places in a “small town by a river and a small lake in a small northern part of a Midwest state”. There are 8 boys who are all dressed up for Halloween and they were ready to head out trick-or-treating. They realize they are missing their friend “Pip” who never misses trick or treating. They swing by his house but things feel strange. There isn’t as many pumpkins or cornshocks. They wait. Pip eventually comes out and says he will meet them later down at the house near the ravine. They get to the house and it is spooky and deserted and there is a tree full of pumpkins that have candles in them. It is here they meet Mr. Moundshroud and the adventure really takes off.
The boys travel through time and space, first to Egypt where they learn about ancient burials. Then to Europe to learn about the pagans and the rise of Christianity and the building of Notre Dame. Finally they find themselves in Mexico and learn about the Day of the Dead. All of these stories are what have brought us to our modern Halloween. All the while the boys come across Pip in the various locations and times and they are doing their best to save him.
We loved reading this book together. Some of the sentences were the longest sentences I have ever read in books. I am currently reading “Murder on the Orient Express” and the sentences in comparison feel positively tiny! The illustrations peppered throughout the book by Joseph Mugnaini, are equal parts beautiful and creepy and give the book a wonderful feel. There is so much detail we would find ourselves taking a few minutes to really have a good look unlike other books we have read with sketches where we have a quick glace and carry on.
You will know best whether your kids can handle this, but I feel like slightly older kids will do better with some of the concepts being presented. I would say 8-9 years old and up. There isn’t anything super scary but there is a question at the end about “would you give up one year of the end of your live to save your friend?” As a kid, they will say yes quickly, but as adults this makes you stop a think a little bit (I know I would for someone I care about, but at the end there are folks who always wish for more time).
This is a classic book that was originally written in 1972 and still has a feel of days gone by. The things they dress up in are classic characters (witches, skeletons, ape men, gargoyles, beggars, and “Mr. Death”) and throughout the story each of their characters is explained, which we found really fascinating.
This is the perfect book to read during the Halloween time frame, but it is also just a really fun read period. This was my first venture into a Ray Bradbury book and his writing is beautiful, eloquent and just rolls of your tongue. Some books I find very difficult to read out loud (it is just the way my brains works…or doesn’t work), but this book was different.
For kids who want to read this on their own, they will find the book is only 145 pages long and the short chapters make it an easy read. There might be a couple of words that challenge them, but for the most part this will be a great book for reluctant readers.
In my research I found this clip of Ray Bradbury talking about his inspiration for the short novel and the animated movie.
It seems they have changed the movie to include only 4 kids trying to save Pip, but Mr. Bradbury wrote and directed the movie and even won an Emmy for it! He is also the narrator throughout the film which I find especially endearing.
Here is a quick preview to the movie. We haven’t had a chance to watch it yet.
I really loved the book and highly recommend it!