Special indeed are holiday stories with the right mix of high spirits and subtle mystery to please both adults and children--Charles Dickens's "A Christmas Carol," for example. Or Ray Bradbury's classic The Halloween Tree. Eight boys set out on a Halloween night and are led into the depths of the past by a tall, mysterious character named Moundshroud. They ride on a black wind to autumn scenes in distant lands and times, where they witness other ways of celebrating this holiday about the dark time of year. Bradbury's lyrical prose whooshes along with the pell-mell rhythms of children running at night, screaming and laughing, and the reader is carried along by its sheer exuberance.
Bradbury's stories about children are always attended by dread--of change, adulthood, death. The Halloween Tree, while sweeter than his adult literature, is also touched at moments by the cold specter of loss--which is only fitting, of course, for a holiday in honor of the waning of the sun.
This is a superb book for adults to read to children, a way to teach them, quite painlessly, about customs and imagery related to Halloween from ancient Egypt, Mediterranean cultures, Celtic Druidism, Mexico, and even a cathedral in Paris. (One caveat, though: Bradbury unfortunately perpetuates a couple of misconceptions about Samhain, or summer's end, the Halloween of ancient Celts and contemporary pagans.) This beautiful reprint edition has the original black-and-white illustrations and a new color painting on the dust jacket. --Fiona Webster