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TSS: Review: Ray Bradbury – The Halloween Tree

October 31, 2010

The Sunday Salon.comHappy Sunday, all! I’ve been busy busy busy lately, mostly still feeling like I’m endlessly playing catch-up with everything from when I was gone. I hope everyone else’s weeks have been a little less hectic than mine.

And Happy Halloween, too! I’ve had costume parties last night and last week, so I’m a little bit Halloweened out now that the actual day is here. (I went as Demeter, which is basically a toga with grains and fall leaves instead of laurel making up the crown, and little leaflets that say “Have you seen this girl?” over an illustration of the kidnapping of Persephone.)

I don’t have anything Halloween-y planned for the day other than a lot of cooking (trial run of two Thanksgiving recipes from Animal, Vegetable, Miracle, probably some gingerbread, plus I’m going to try to invent a cran-apple fall chicken dish from scratch). Oh, and I’ll probably eat more than I should of the candy that I way over-bought considering how many trick-or-treaters I’m likely to get. Good times.

But that’s not to say that I’m not at least a little bit in the Halloween spirit, because: behold, a themed review!

133. The Halloween Tree by Ray Bradbury (1972)

Length: 149 pages

Genre: Young Adult, Horror

Started: 27 October 2010
Finished: 27 October 2010

Where did it come from? Bookmooch.
Why do I have it? Ray Bradbury is one of my favorite authors, but I didn’t know about this one until Natasha’s review.
How long has it been on my TBR pile? Since 24 February 2009.

A creepy journey
to the past shows Halloween’s
historic meaning.

Summary: One Halloween, in lieu of trick-or-treating, a bunch of costumed young boys sneak down to the haunted house in the ravine outside of town. They meet Mr. Moundshroud, who – true to his promise of “no treats, only tricks” – takes them on a strange journey into the past and around the world, in an attempt to teach them the origins of the holiday… and what there truly is to be afraid of.

Review: I’ve been a fan of Ray Bradbury’s for almost longer than I can remember, and I’m really surprised I’d never come across this one before. The setting – a small Midwestern town populated (seemingly) by the nostalgic ideal of boyhood – and the writing style are pure Bradbury. But I think this is the first time that I can remember that Bradbury really tackles mythology and culture so directly, and the effect is a little disconcerting, almost like Bradbury got stuck writing a Neil Gaiman story. It’s an interesting idea, to ask why the symbols that we choose to represent fear are things that scare us in the first place, and Bradbury handles it well. Its dark and unflinching approach to the real origins of the holiday is also a refreshing counterpoint to the more familiar “true meaning of Christmas” treacle.

I was a little disappointed, though; for all it was about death and scary things, I wanted it to be… well, scarier. It can’t be because of the author or the format, because there are moments in some of Bradbury’s short stories that are creepy beyond words. I don’t read enough horror to be jaded enough that nothing scares me any more. The atmosphere and the story are right on, but there was a just something that was missing, something that failed to give me a good, seasonally-appropriate case of the shivers. 3.5 out of 5 stars.

Recommendation: I can definitely see this becoming a yearly re-read, and I think it would be good for people or families who like traditions of that sort. It’s definitely a seasonal read, though… don’t pick this one up on a sunny day in April.

At least my copy of the book (which was published sometime in the 1970s) had that perfectly old, musty, dried-leaves, creepy-library-basement, used-book smell. Love that.

This Review on LibraryThing | This Book on LibraryThing | This Book on Amazon

Other Reviews: Jenn’s Bookshelves, Maw Books Blog, The Movieholic & Bibliophile’s Blog, Stuff As Dreams Are Made On, The Written World, Young Adult Literature Review
Have you reviewed this book? Leave a comment with the link and I’ll add it in.

First Line: It was a small town by a small river and a small lake in a small northern part of a Midwest state.

What about you, readers? Got any favorite Halloween reads that I should pick up for next year?

© 2010 Fyrefly’s Book Blog. All Rights Reserved. If you’re reading this on a site other than Fyrefly’s Book Blog or its RSS feed, be aware that this post has been stolen and is being used without permission.

14 Comments leave one →
  1. October 31, 2010 8:31 am

    I had no idea Bradbury did Gaiman, so to speak! I love Bradbury, so I will probably check this out, even if it isn’t optimally scary!

    • November 1, 2010 9:25 am

      rhapsody – That’s probably an unfair comparison to make, since this was published 20 years or so before Gaiman started doing Gaiman, but that’s the type of story it felt like to me.

  2. October 31, 2010 9:52 am

    Oh, I love that smell–it makes me feel right at home. I’ve never read The Halloween Tree, so I didn’t realize how much it deals with the mythology of the holiday. Interesting.

    (Also, Demeter costume with wanted posters? Very nice.)

    • November 1, 2010 9:26 am

      Omni – My copy of The Martian Chronicles smells that way too… maybe Bradbury’s books are printed on special good-smelling paper? Or maybe I’m just more likely to find old copies of them at thrift stores.

  3. October 31, 2010 12:03 pm

    I feel like I never give Halloween the reading consideration it deserves. But I bet I’d enjoy rereading White is for Witching every year. I should start doing that.

    • November 1, 2010 9:32 am

      Jenny – I’ve not heard of White is for Witching before… is it specifically Halloween-centric? Or just generally creepy?

  4. October 31, 2010 12:31 pm

    I loved your description of your Halloween costume! So creative!

    • November 1, 2010 9:35 am

      Alyce – Thanks! I’d say about half of the people that saw it got it (this past weekened’s party was “D” themed, so there were also a Diana and a Dionysus running around), and the other half just sort of stared at me blankly until I explained. Guess not everyone was into Greek mythology as a sixth grader the way I was!

  5. October 31, 2010 5:19 pm

    I haven’t actually read this one yet! I am adding it to my find a used copy this. I love your Demeter costume and poster. Did anyone see the poor girl? Happy All Hallow’s Eve!

    • November 1, 2010 9:36 am

      Gavin – This one does seem to get lost in the shuffle, even for Bradbury fans! I hope you find a copy, and enjoy it!

      …and no, no one had seen her, but someone did tell me to ask again in a few months. :)

  6. November 2, 2010 7:02 am

    I had never heard of that Bradbury book either! Sheesh. Added it to my bookmooch wishlist. (I love the cover).

    • November 3, 2010 9:40 am

      christina – I don’t know why no one’s heard of this… it’s not like it’s been out of print for decades, either, since a new edition was published fairly recently. Hope you enjoy it!

  7. November 7, 2010 3:17 pm

    “At least my copy of the book (which was published sometime in the 1970s) had that perfectly old, musty, dried-leaves, creepy-library-basement, used-book smell. Love that.” – Me, too!

    For next year, you should check out A Night in the Lonesome October by Roger Zelazny. It’s a fun read :)

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