As always, book reviews are spoiler-free, designed to highlight the the best qualities of a book and examine its weaknesses.
The Halloween Tree is a children’s book by Ray Bradbury, author of Fahrenheit 451. The story follows eight boys on a cinematic adventure through time and place on Halloween night. Here’s what you should know:
Read Aloud—The Halloween Tree begs to be read aloud. The entire text of the story is rich with word-made music and figurative language. For those who enjoy personification, allusion, juxtaposition, and metonymy, the book is a treasure trove. Consider the rhythm of the first line:
“It was a small town by a small river and a small lake in a small northern part of a Midwest state.”
A Christmas Carol, but for Halloween—Not only does the story allude to Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol periodically, but it aims to teach its readers in a similar way. Through supernatural means, the reader learns about the origins and meanings behind many common Halloween symbols.
The Ethereal—The story swings about from scene to scene in an endless, near-dreamlike way that is all at once haunting and cozy—like Halloween. Some parts are nightmarish whorls and others are pumpkin pie. As a reader, you are never quite sure whether you are reading the truth or a dream.
Thematic Layering—The narrative relies on poetic momentum and thematic layering more than it does on suspense, mystery, or character. While children can enjoy the general story, I believe that most of the depth of the story is probably beyond the scope of an average children’s book. A child reading The Halloween Tree needs the benefit of a general historical background in the major civilizations of western culture. The book serves as an excellent entry point to talk about topics such as ancient Egypt, Greece, Rome, the dark ages, and cultural celebrations around the world.
Overall, I give the story 3/5 stars. It was a fun, quick read, great for getting in the Halloween mood. While I The Halloween Tree is linguistically probably the second-most beautiful book I have read this year (behind this book), I started to feel seasick from all of its stream-of-scene-change pyrotechnics by the end. I would recommend The Halloween Tree for readers 6th grade and up, with the addendum that it is a good book to read paired with a classroom discussion setting.
If you aren’t up for Edgar Allen Poe, but you still want to read something to get you in the Halloween spirit, give The Halloween Tree a try.
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