Originally published in 1970, The Hallowe’en Tree is Bradbury’s semi-mature, semi-adolescent paean to Hallowe’en, a holiday which for him always seemed to hold that special combination of innocence and fear, nostalgia (in its best possible sense) and a regret at the loss of youth. It is a place which he had inhabited since his earliest short stories, but the story is cast for an audience of younger boys and girls. Well, mainly boys. Girls are notably absent from this book, recounting the story of eight friends attempting to rescue their ninth companion, the greatest boy in the world, Joe Pipkin, who on the night of Hallowe’en is inadvertent lost in time.
To find Pipkin, Tom Skelton and his chums (don’t worry, none of them are really differentiated except by their costumes, so their names are largely unimportant) accompany the mysterious Mr. Moundshroud on a voyage through history and around the world, to see a sort of Disney version of the origins of Hallowe’en. Leaving on the tail of a kite, the voyage that they make is rather in the “history minus the gore and horror” camp, but is deftly woven in Bradbury’s lightly deft touch.
I loved this book when I first read it as a child of about eleven or twelve, and it still holds up today, making wonderfully timely reading for the month of October. Maybe next, for an encore, I will move on to some Washington Irving (to whom Bradbury owes not a little) or some Lovecraft (ditto). This short novel is full of the delightful crisp airs and scents of the Autumn, as the world moves inexorably toward winter. Highly recommended, 4.5 of 5 stars.
Originally reviewed 7 October 2013.
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