Nut Ink. Mini reviews of texts old and new. No fuss. No plot spoilers. No adverts. Occasional competency.

Wednesday, October 7, 2015

The Halloween Tree (1972 / 2015)

Author: Ray Bradbury  |  Illustrator: Gris Grimly  |  Page Count: 144

'The wind played a flute in a chimney somewhere; an old song about time and dark and far places. The tall man shut up his smile like a bright pocketknife.'

A new HB edition of Bradbury’s 1972 children's book that has black and white and colour illustrations by Gris Grimly in place of the classic Joe Mugnaini art. Joe's art is much more dramatically menacing, but Grimly's 'darkly whimsical' style is also well-suited to the text, a story of eight friends who go on a journey one magical Halloween night. They're trying to solve a mystery and save a friend who may or may not be feeling quite himself. As they search for one thing they uncover answers to many things, deepening the allure of the season.

It begins in an unnamed mid-west American state with Tom Skelton, aged thirteen, going out to trick or treat with his friends, each one dressed in a different but traditional fright-night costume. But why are they traditional? What do witches have to do with an autumnal festival? Why are bandaged mummies paraded just once a year? As the boys uncover the mysteries of Halloween in an inimitable Bradbury way the reader learns their origin, too. Well, one interpretation of such.

Grimly's inky illustrations are highly stylised, sometimes half a page, sometimes full page. They're well-placed for the most part, but there's one colour plate in particular set before the appearance of the text it relates to. I dislike when that happens. It's almost like having sound and picture not properly synced in a film.

The colour pages are glossy and attractive, so why is the paper stock used for the text such cheap quality? It's not at all what you'd expect to see in a HB edition of an author so well-loved by so many. The publisher probably paid a lot of money for the privilege of republishing, and I realise they likely had to offset costs somehow, but compromising on paper quality is not the best solution. That's an adult concern for what's essentially a children's book, but I stand by it. It matters because if this particular edition is your child's introduction to the story, or even to Bradbury, then they may want to keep and treasure it for years to come.

3 candle constellations out of 5

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