The Thunder Child

Science Fiction and Fantasy
Web Magazine and Sourcebooks

Vol 1, Issue #3
"Stand By For Mars!"
March 2006

Fiction Book Reviews
by Caroline Miniscule

The Halloween Tree
by Ray Bradbury, edited by Donn Albright
Gauntlet Press

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Caroline Miniscule has traveled around the world. She now stays in one place and reads science fiction. She is a graduate of D'Illyria University.

Way back in 1966, Ray Bradbury watched the Peanuts special, It's The Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown, and was terribly disappointed when The Great Pumpkin did not actually appear. (As were quite a few kids and monster kids!) He decided to do something about it, and started work on the script of The Halloween Tree, which was to be his tribute to his favorite holiday. For various and sundry reasons, detailed in this book, the initial screen treatment was not produced, and eventually Bradbury expanded it into a book, which was published in 1972. Finally, in 1993, The Halloween Tree hit the small screen. Bradbury won an Emmy for the screen play, Leonard Nimoy provided the voice of Mr. Moundshroud, and it's shown every October - albeit on a cable channel.

How does the creative mind work? How does a project go from the idea stage to the printed the little black box of television? In this compilation of The Halloween Tree, readers will be able to follow the journey from its inception as a mote in Bradbury's eye to its final incarnation.

This book, at 494 oversized pages, is a fun and fascinating window into the creative mind of Ray Bradbury.

Nine boys live in a small rural town. When Halloween arrives they're all excited, donning their costumes and pouring out into the neighborhoods for trick or treat. But one of their number, their leader, Pipkin, doesn't show up. They go to his house and see him...and the normally ebullient boy is tired and wan and in pain, clutching at his side. He sends the boys to an old, deserted sure-to-be-haunted house, telling them he'll join them in a while. The boys arrive at the house, and find the Halloween Tree in the back yard, covered in pumpkins:

For the pumpkins on the Tree were not mere pumpkins. Each had a face sliced into it. Each face was different. Every eye was a stranger eye. Every nose was a weirder nose. Every mouth smiled hideously in some new way. There must have been a thousand pumpkins on this tree, hung high and on every branch. A thousand smiles. A thousand grimaces. And twice-times-a-thousand glares and winks and blinks and leerings of freshcut eyes.

And as the boys watched, a new thing happened.

The pumpkins began to come alive.

Here the boys meet Mr. Moundshroud, who is going to take them all on a journey to learn the history of Halloween. Before they start, however, Pipkin comes running across the yard, only to fall, and to be captured by something...and to be borne away. So now the eight remaining boys have a two-fold task - to learn the history of Halloween (in journeys to old Egypt, Mexico, England and France, and somehow rescue their friend Pipken from the embrace of Death.

Isaac Asimov once described the two ways of writing: the mosaic and the plate glass. Ray Bradbury definitely writes in the mosaic style. It's not enough for him to tell a straightforward story - every word is chosen to paint a picture, to evoke a mood. For a story about Halloween, the style works well...indeed reading The Halloween Tree around a campfire while roasting marshmallows would make an ideal family tradition...if families still have traditions these days...

Publishing is a precarious business. The publisher must price the book such that they will make a profit on it, and be able to pay royalties to the author. Ranged against them is the middleman - the distributor - who usually acquires the book for 60% of the cover price, and the bookstore - which will keep a book on its shelves for a month or so...and then send them all back.

Compiler/designer Donn Albright has put together a complete package:

Introduction - which tells of Bradbury's disappointment with the Peanuts special and his work with animator Chuck Jones
1. First revised screenplay (1967) (facsimile with Bradbury's annotations)
2. Novel in progress (1971)
3. Final novel submission (1972)
4. The teleplay (1992)
5. Companion materials:

Bradbury interview 2004
Correspondence - between Bradbury and Knopf and Random House
Promotional material - Press releases
Photographs (Book covers - English and foreign languages
Ancillary - various illustrations
Bibliographical checklist

There's the novel The Halloween Tree, and then there's the teleplay. How do the two differ? Why do they differ? This compilation explains it all.

So, these editions of Gauntlet Press must pretty much be acquired through their website, []. There are a couple of different versions of the book on offer, so if you want to complete your Bradbury Bookshelf with this gem, make sure you investigate your choices thoroughly.

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