"What is Halloween? How did it start? Where? Why? What for? Witches, mummy dusts, haunts. It's all there in that county from which no one returns. Will you dive into the dark ocean, boys? Will you fly in the dark sky?"
– Ray Bradbury's The Halloween Tree
I seem to find myself reading a lot of Bradbury as of late. Most people know the man for his highly acclaimed book, Fahrenheit 451, but I much prefer his lesser-known stories. Earlier this week I closed the last page of From the Dust Returned, and I immediately picked up The Halloween Tree – one of my favorite stories since I was a child.
I grew up watching the animated version of The Halloween Tree, and it was easily one of my most-played VHS tapes (after all, I watched and re-watched it no matter what time of year it was).
I think the reason I loved the movie so much was how effortlessly it captured the spirit of Halloween, especially for a child growing up in the Midwest. And the book? Why, the book does the same, but even more successfully.
If you are unfamiliar with the story, The Halloween Tree is a tale of eight trick-or-treaters who gather at a haunted house near the edge of town looking for a spooky adventure. But when their friend Joe Pipkin, "the greatest boy who ever lived," is surprisingly absent from the festivities, the boys must venture through time and space to look for their friend and discover the true meaning of All Hallows' Eve.
As their sinister guide, Carapace Clavicle Moundshroud, whisks them around the globe in search of Pipkin, the boys learn how Halloween was celebrated around the world since the beginning of mankind.
And so goes the story of the children in The Halloween Tree. Will the gang find their beloved Pip before it's too late? Where will they find him? And when?