Ray Bradbury holds a special place in my book-loving heart. Ever since my maternal grandmother gave me a 1957 SFBC edition of his The Martian Chronicles for my thirteenth birthday in 1987, I have been drawn into his stories of rocket travel, of tattooed men bearing stories on their bodies, of evil carnivals, and so many other tales. But there is one story of his, that of little ten year-old Timothy and his family, that has been a delight to me for years. Although a few years ago Bradbury expanded his The Homecoming into the delightful but bittersweet From the Dust Returned, the original short story, first published in 1946, has had a power of its own.
So it was with great delight when I was browsing the shelves at a local bookstore today, the first day of what I tend privately to call "Bradbury Month" for the strong associations of his stories to the month of October, that I happened to discover that there was a new, standalone edition of The Homecoming, with illustrations by no other than Dave McKean himself, of Sandman fame.
The story itself, 56 pages in this edition, deals with poor misfit Timothy. Unlike the vampires, ghouls, and other fey creatures in his family, little Timothy was born able to breathe, to endure the sun's rays, to have a beating heart, and to be blessed/cursed with having a mortal lifespan. The story opens with news of a great family reunion, or Homecoming, set to take place in his parents' house. From all across the globe, in various monstrous forms, his vampiric relatives travel to meet in one of their centennial celebrations.
Bradbury does a masterful job of using words to set the mood. From the various pauses for effect to the situational irony that pervades the scenes in which Timothy meets his far-flung relatives, this is a story that begs to be read aloud one autumn night when the first frost is in the air and the leaves have begun to fall to the forest grounds. This mood is only heightened with McKean's spooky illustrations that not only set off the imagery created by Bradbury's words, but they also serve to heighten the overall effect of the story, causing the reader to pause for a moment to consider just how wonderfully creepy the entire affair really is.
The Homecoming is one of Bradbury's most famous stories and in this illustrated edition, it really has received a gorgeous treatment. I cannot recommend this highly enough for readers. This is a book that demands to be read, aloud preferably, over and over again, especially during this time of the year.
Publication Date: August 2006 (US), Hardcover
Publisher: Collins Design