The Halloween Tree
Have you ever wondered why we dress up for Halloween? Or how the tradition of trick-or-treating begin? Or, how about why we associate witches, skeletons and ghosts with Halloween? This novel cleverly answers these questions and so much more.
An ode to Halloween, this book packs a brain full of facts into your head in the most entertaining way. The Halloween Tree is a children’s novel (that will also appeal to adults) about eight 13-year-old boys who go on a journey to discover the history of Halloween and in the process save the ninth member of their group, Pipkin, from the hands of death.
“Anyone could see that the wind was a special wind this night, and the darkness took on a special feel because it was All Hallows’ Eve. Everything seemed cut from soft black velvet or gold or orange velvet. Smoke panted up out of a thousand chimneys like the plumes of funeral parades. From kitchen windows drifted two pumpkin smells: gourds being cut, pies being baked.”
I don’t usually get caught up in “the beauty of prose”, but I have to say the book is filled with passages like the example above. The sentences just flow off the tongue. Listening to the book read made it even more apparent. There really was a lyrical rhythm to the prose that even I, a hard person to impress, fell in love with.
A time travel novel, The Halloween Tree takes the reader back to multiple points in time to visit the mummies of Ancient Egypt, England during the time of the Druids, the gargoyles of Norte Dame in the Middle Ages and the cemeteries of Mexico on el Dia de los Meurtos (The Day of the Dead). At each stop, the reader learns something new about how the traditions of Halloween were shaped by different cultures across the centuries, culminating in the holiday we know today.
This novel (the audio version especially) moves a break-neck speed. You don’t have two seconds to stop and breathe throughout the entire story. The pace is fast, from the first pages, and it pulls you into the plot and doesn’t give you time to realize that facts are being thrown at you from the get go. Even after two readings, I was still catching things I missed the first and second time.
I listened to the audio version done by the Colonial Radio Theatre on Air. After listening, I was so enthralled I read the printed version. I have to say I’m not sure I’d have been quite as entertained if I had read the novel first. The printed version was wonderful, but the audio was amazing. It employed a full cast, sound effects and music, not just background music, but turned some of the text into song. And it never allowed me to slow down in reading it so I got the full effect of the pacing. This is one book were I recommend the audio over the book.
However you think of October 31st: All Souls, All Saints, Day of the Dead, The Feast of Samhain, the time of the dead ones, el Dia de los Muertos, All Hallows Eve, or Halloween, The Halloween Tree is to Halloween what The Christmas Carol is to Christmas—a classic that I believe will still continue to delight readers in the decades to come.