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The Halloween Tree
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Opening this book is like opening a present. Originally published in 1972, publisher Alfred A. Knopf has printed a new hardcover edition. The dust-jacket is beautifully illustrated, the book is of an unusual size. Everything about it says "special."

Inside, I was not disappointed. Bradbury swept me away with his opening scene:

"It was a small town by a small river and a small lake in a small northern part of a Midwest state. There wasn't so much wilderness around you couldn't see the town. But on the other hand there wasn't so much town you couldn't see and feel and touch and smell the wilderness. The town was full of trees. And dry grass and dead flowers now that autumn was here. And full of fences to walk on and sidewalks to skate on and a large ravine to tumble in and yell across. And the town was full of...

Boys.

And it was the afternoon of Halloween.

And all the houses shut against a cool wind.

And the town was full of cold sunlight.

But suddenly, the day was gone.

Night came out from under each tree and spread."

This scene sets the tone for the entire book. THE HALLOWEEN TREE is as classic a Halloween story as A Christmas Carol is for Christmas. It is about a group of boys, all friends, ages 11-12, who dress up for their annual night of Halloween mischief and go trick or treating. The boys find themselves at a particularly spooky mansion in a dark ravine, with a Marley-the-ghost door knocker and a gigantic tree covered with jack-o-lanterns. As the jack-o-lanterns light up one by one, the boys realize they are in the presence of a Halloween Tree, and that something very special is about to happen.

The resident of the house, the mysterious Mr. Moundshroud, takes the boys on a fantastic journey through traditions of Halloween past. This story is part history lesson, but the history is provided in such a compelling way that your average reader won't even realize he or she is learning something.

Perhaps the only downside to this story is that it is so dominantly geared toward a male audience. All of the major characters are male. Though, being female myself, I could get lost in the spookiness of the narrative.

Bradbury uses his trademark short sentences which are short on exposition but long on crafting a mood. The story is spooky without ever being scary, and is sure to delight kids of all ages.

Reviewed by: Marie Robinson
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