"The Halloween Tree" was written by Ray Bradbury. It was originally published in 1972. Bradbury, the author of "Fahrenheit 451," has written dozens of books, but "The Halloween Tree" stands out as one that was specifically written for younger readers. "The Halloween Tree" was also adapted into a feature-length animated movie starring Leonard Nimoy.
"The Halloween Tree" introduces you to a group of friends excitedly preparing for an evening of trick-or-treating. Pipkin, the most celebrated of the boys (Bradbury devotes a chapter to the reasons why everyone likes Pip), is the only person not to have put on a costume for Halloween night. The boys discover this when they come looking for Pip and find him in a weakened condition. Soon after, the boys meet the mysterious Mr. Carapace Clavicle Moundshroud, who presides over a tree that is decorated with jack-o-lanterns. Eerily, the faces on the jack-o-lanterns seem real.
The tree with the jack-o-lanterns is the "Halloween Tree," and it is under Moundshroud's control. When Pip falls near it, he is carried away by dark forces, and his friends decide to save him. Moundshroud reveals himself to be the key to saving Pip, but he shows disdain for the boys, who know very little about the costumes they wear or the origins of Halloween. Moundshroud eventually agrees to help them follow Pip and whisks the group off on black winds.
Journey Through Space and Time
Moundshroud and the boys follow Pip (or who they think is Pip) on a journey through space and time. The boys are taken to Mexico, where they compare Halloween to El Dia de los Muertos (the day of the dead), a Mexican holiday when people look to communicate with those who have passed. They build elaborate altars as a gateway between the living and the dead. They are also taken to Egypt, England and France to learn more about those cultures and how they played a role in the celebration of Halloween.
The Moral of the Story
The boys finally catch up with what they realize is Pip's ghost. Moundshroud, a grim reaper-type character, releases his claim to Pip in exchange for a year off of each boy's life. Moundshroud and his Halloween Tree, along with it's jack-o-lantern ornaments (or souls), disappear and all of the boys (including a healthy Pip) are reunited. By the end of the story, the characters and readers -- ideally children in the third to sixth grade -- learn that Halloween is similar to the many dark holidays celebrated around the world and has more depth than just dressing up for candy.
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