The main conflict in Ray Bradbury's 1972 fantasy novel "The Halloween Tree" comes from the boys' Halloween night quest to rescue their pal Pipkin, whom they see off in the distance before he is mysteriously whisked away. A spooky stranger offers to help the boys save their friend and teach them all about Halloween in the process -- an adventure that takes them around the world in space and time.
In pursuit of the kidnapped Pipkin, main character Tom Skelton and his gang face one challenge after another, from Egypt to the British Isles to Paris and Mexico. The scenes fuel the plot, with each situation more dangerous than the previous. Although Tom typically takes the lead, the boys all support one another. In the catacombs, Pipkin's very life is on the line, and the boys' loyalty is tested. However, each of the friends does not hesitate to give one year of his own life to save Pipkin's.
The Full Story
In "The Halloween Tree" eight boys set out on Halloween night for the usual trick-or-treating but find themselves at a dark, unfamiliar mansion with a Marley doorknocker, a mysterious, risen-from-the-leaves host and an enormous tree of lighted, talking jack-o-lanterns -- the Halloween Tree of the title. The boys see their friend Pipkin, who is late in joining them, snatched in the night. Mr. Moundshroud offers to help the boys rescue their friend while on a fantastic journey through traditions of Halloween past. When the boys' loyalty and friendship have been ultimately tested and they return home, they learn that Pipkin has spent the evening in the hospital but is fine. Whatever tricks and treats -- magical or real -- the night held, the adventure is over when the town clock strikes midnight and Tom returns safely home, after which Mr. Moundshroud returns to wherever it is he comes from.
Theme and Style
All the major characters are male in this nostalgia-tinged fantasy. Bradbury uses his trademark short sentences to craft a mood that is spooky not scary, making the book appropriate for middle-grade readers and older. The voice is perfect for the quick pace, and the tone suits characters who are sweet even when an air of dread hangs over them. Bradbury's recurring themes of friendship and loyalty fit the story perfectly, as does the message about the importance of being willing to take risks and step outside one's comfort zone. As the boys realize, their openness is what keeps them safe and what allows them to rescue Pipkin.
Prolific Los Angeles-based author Ray Bradbury was born in 1920 in Illinois, where many of his stories are set. He is a novelist, poet, short story writer and essayist who decided at 12 to become a writer and sold his first story on his 18th birthday. Bradbury writes mystery, science fiction, horror and fantasy. Many of his works, including "The Halloween Tree," have been made into movies or adapted for television.
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