Thursday, October 29, 2009

The Halloween Tree, by Ray Bradbury

Publisher: Random House (Yearling) (Knopf)
Pages: 145
Reading Level: 12 and up
Enjoyment Level: Middle of the Road

A year or so ago, I facilitated a book club where we read only YA books. For Halloween, it was amazingly difficult to find a book that followed the theme - Ray Bradbury's Halloween Tree was pretty much the only option that wasn't part of a series. So I kind of feel like I read this because I had to, instead of for enjoyment.

The story follows a group of boys who are out to go trick-or-treating. It's something they look forward to and are still at an age to get excited about it. One of their number, however, ends up sick and the rest of the boys are pulled along on a journey to save their sick friend.

The writing is typical Ray Bradbury, though, it does have the distinct feel of a book being written for the younger crowd. There is a sort of playfulness amidst the seriousness. The language is easily understandable for anyone. And despite the grim nature of the characters and plot, it's more creepy than outright frightening, though not so creepy as to make it difficult to read on a dark, stormy night.

In terms of the characters, they read as though they're thought out, but there is so much going on, that no one boy in the group stands out. The characters feel more like surface space - actors to play out the plotline.

And speaking of the plot, at times it feels like it's all over the place. Sometimes it got confusing trying to follow who was doing what and where. That being said, the imagery is well done and the world is very rich. As you read, you can believe that the events and setting are real.

I don't recommend the book for younger readers, as they may not follow it well and they might be frightened by some of the imagery. But i you want a book for Halloween that will put you in the spirit, this one will. It's got ghouls, demons, mummies - Ray Bradbury put them all in here. The mood is dark and reading the story aloud would add that extra spark - like a campfire ghost story.

Whatever you're doing this Halloween, be safe, have fun and and don't egg anyone's car.

Until next time, go read something scary!

~ Vilate


  1. Vi - I recently read this one and would agree with your comments. I enjoyed the whole "history" of Halloween as told by their time-travel but also felt lost at times.

  2. Some years ago when I was the educational media specialist in an elementary school here in NJ, the students were assigned a Halloween project on the Jersey Devil and the Pine Barrens. Since I find this subject fascinating and have done much research on the subject myself, I was eager to help the students (4th graders). Much to my surprise, I discovered there was little that was age appropriate for their use. I ended up writing a faction book for the children which I called A DEVIL IN THE PINES. Eventually, at an educational media specialists convention, I spoke to a NJ publisher for children's lit, Afton Publishing, and told them about my picture book. They had some material on the Jersey Devil already, a film strip and an adult book, but nothing really appropriate for younger children. The upshot was they published my book and it is still in print today!