Has there been a movie made of it?
Yes, in 1983. It starred Jason Robards and Jonathan Pryce.
Who are the main characters?
Jim Nightshade – a barely teen age boy who lives next door to his best friend. He was born one minute into Halloween. He is more a daredevil than Will.
Will Halloway – Jim’s best friend. He was born one minute before midnight on October 30th. While still having all the qualities of a little boy who enjoys getting in trouble, Will is purer in heart than Jim.
Mr. Dark – the man who runs “Cooger and Dark’s carnival” which comes to town. He is covered in tattoos and is very sinister. He also has an unnatural fascination with Jim and Will.
Mr. Halloway – Will’s father, he is quite a bit older than he thinks he should be to be a proper farmer. He is the janitor at the town library and a source of good and love.
What’s it about?
One afternoon in the fall, a lightning rod salesman appears in Green Town, Illinois. He meets Jim Nightshade and Will Halloway – two best friends born within minutes of each other but on different days. He senses a storm coming and gives Jim a lightning rod, telling him his house is going to be struck by lightning. Then he leaves. The two boys go to visit Will’s father at the library, and on their way home find a flier about Cooger and Dark’s Carnival coming to town. Mr. Halloway also hears about it on his way home – and it conjures up memories of his past.
That night at three o’clock, Will, Jim, and Mr. Halloway all hear the whistle of a train. They sneak out of their respective houses (Jim and Will together) and watch the arrival of the circus train. Jim and Will witness the strange phenomena occurring as the carnival is set up. There’s a hot air balloon which apparently scoops up the darkness and uses it to form the canvas covering the big top. The calliope plays a foreboding song which sounds familiar but they can’t figure out what it is. They’re frightened off by a screaming bird. Behind them, waits a maze with frightening possibilities.
Throughout the next 48 hours, Will, Jim, and Mr. Halloway careen into a head on collision with the dark forces of the carnival and its sinister ringmaster – Mr. Dark, the Illustrated Man. The boys struggle to keep Mr. Dark and his minions, (the Dwarf, Skeleton Man, Mr. Cooger, and the terrifying Dust Witch) from twisting the deepest desires of everyone they care about to ruin their lives – and throwing the boys right into Mr. Dark’s path.
Why is this book a classic?
Ray Bradbury has an amazing talent for writing not quite fantasy, not quite sci-fi, not quite reality. Which makes it poetic. Reading his stories is almost like hearing him tell them. They have a voice of their own because of their humanity.
Why should I read this book?
It’s the right time of year for it. If you’ve ever wished to be younger or older or more beautiful or anything other than what you are – this book will interest you. It’s easy to follow and fast-paced. It’s not too long, but it’s poetic enough to make an anti-reader feel smart, but not enough to sound presumptuous.
Has it won any awards?
Negative, Rogue leader.
“The sun rose yellow as a lemon. The sky was round and blue. The birds looped clear water songs in the air. Will and Jim leaned from their windows. Nothing had changed. Except the look in Jim’s eyes.” – pg60
The title of the novel is taken from a Shakespeare play – MacBeth to be exact – the second witch is talking about Macbeth and says “By the pricking of my thumbs, something wicked this way comes.” Numerous television shows have used this phrase, or a play on it, as titles for an episode – including Charmed, South Park, and Joan of Arcadia. Ray Bradbury also shares my opinion of Michael Moore. Bradbury was insulted and very upset when Moore named his political documentary “Fahrenheit 9/11.” Bradbury claimed Moore stole the title and changed it without permission and also called Moore “a horrible human being.”
Once again Ray Bradbury reminds me why I love his writing. The entire novel is poetic and beautiful, while still evoking feelings of evil and foreboding. I enjoyed almost everything about this story – even the villains. It wasn’t predictable and it wasn’t trite. The characters were believable despite the supernatural qualities the majority of them possessed.