THE HALLOWEEN TREE

The lyric and expansive nostalgia for boyhood of Dandelion Wine, the extravagantly conjured atmosphere of Leon Garfield (but without his chilling intensity), the sometimes gratuitous fright-inciters (rattling bones and shuddering house) of the conventional Halloween story — all seem to temper the unabashed didacticism of the mysterious Mr. Moundshroud, who takes eight spookily costumed boys on a kite-and-broomstick timetrip in search of their friend Pippin and the meaning of Halloween. Breathless urgency prevails as the boys swoop and slide in and out of an ancient Egyptian burial, a ritual of death in Druid Britain, a gathering of medieval witches, the massing of the Notre Dame gargoyles, and a candlelit feast in a Mexican cemetery — glimpsing as they go a variously guised and weakly pleading Pippin, for whose life each boy in the catacomb-clammy end gives up a year of his own. Back home the boys learn that Pippin has been relieved in the nick of time of an inflamed appendix, and Mr. Moundshroud sums up his lesson: the holiday derives from the fear of death and the seasonal death of the sun. If you had time to stop and think you'd notice that the plot is all but nonexistent, the eight characters separately identifiable only by their Halloween costumes (one of them, Tom Skelton, is simply named more often), the atmosphere too staged and changing to be as scary as it might, the lesson unremarkable despite the novelty of its presentation, and the closing promise surely debatable ("O Mr. Moundshroud, will we ever stop being afraid of night and death?. . . When you reach the stars, boy, yes, and live there forever, all the fears will go, and Death himself will die."). Still Bradbury-Moundshroud is a spectacular guide to the nether regions and this may well be (as Tom Skelton called it) "both a trick and a treat" for other boys who are willing to plunge right in and let the devil take the doubters.

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 1972

ISBN: 0375803017

Page Count: 166

Publisher: Knopf

Review Posted Online: March 20, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 1972

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Engrossing, contemplative, and as heart-wrenching as the title promises.

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THEY BOTH DIE AT THE END

What would you do with one day left to live?

In an alternate present, a company named Death-Cast calls Deckers—people who will die within the coming day—to inform them of their impending deaths, though not how they will happen. The End Day call comes for two teenagers living in New York City: Puerto Rican Mateo and bisexual Cuban-American foster kid Rufus. Rufus needs company after a violent act puts cops on his tail and lands his friends in jail; Mateo wants someone to push him past his comfort zone after a lifetime of playing it safe. The two meet through Last Friend, an app that connects lonely Deckers (one of many ways in which Death-Cast influences social media). Mateo and Rufus set out to seize the day together in their final hours, during which their deepening friendship blossoms into something more. Present-tense chapters, short and time-stamped, primarily feature the protagonists’ distinctive first-person narrations. Fleeting third-person chapters give windows into the lives of other characters they encounter, underscoring how even a tiny action can change the course of someone else’s life. It’s another standout from Silvera (History Is All You Left Me, 2017, etc.), who here grapples gracefully with heavy questions about death and the meaning of a life well-lived.

Engrossing, contemplative, and as heart-wrenching as the title promises. (Speculative fiction. 13-adult).

Pub Date: Sept. 5, 2017

ISBN: 978-0-06-245779-0

Page Count: 384

Publisher: HarperTeen

Review Posted Online: June 5, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 2017

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Grimly plainly worked hard, but, as the title indicates, the result serves his own artistic vision more than Mary Shelley’s.

GRIS GRIMLY'S FRANKENSTEIN

A slightly abridged graphic version of the classic that will drive off all but the artist’s most inveterate fans.

Admirers of the original should be warned away by veteran horror artist Bernie Wrightson’s introductory comments about Grimly’s “wonderfully sly stylization” and the “twinkle” in his artistic eye. Most general readers will founder on the ensuing floods of tiny faux handwritten script that fill the opening 10 pages of stage-setting correspondence (other lengthy letters throughout are presented in similarly hard-to-read typefaces). The few who reach Victor Frankenstein’s narrative will find it—lightly pruned and, in places, translated into sequences of largely wordless panels—in blocks of varied length interspersed amid sheaves of cramped illustrations with, overall, a sickly, greenish-yellow cast. The latter feature spidery, often skeletal figures that barrel over rough landscapes in rococo, steampunk-style vehicles when not assuming melodramatic poses. Though the rarely seen monster is a properly hard-to-resolve jumble of massive rage and lank hair, Dr. Frankenstein looks like a decayed Lyle Lovett with high cheekbones and an errant, outsized quiff. His doomed bride, Elizabeth, sports a white lock à la Elsa Lanchester, and decorative grotesqueries range from arrangements of bones and skull-faced flowers to bunnies and clownish caricatures.

Grimly plainly worked hard, but, as the title indicates, the result serves his own artistic vision more than Mary Shelley’s. (Graphic classic. 14 & up)

Pub Date: Aug. 27, 2013

ISBN: 978-0-06-186297-7

Page Count: 208

Publisher: Balzer + Bray/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: July 3, 2013

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2013

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