All this month for Halloween, I’ll be taking a look at books that fit the month of October. An interesting trend in recent years from Disney is to release literary follow-ups to movies that’d be perfect for this time of year. We’ve seen it with the Hocus Pocus book sequel, there is a Sleepy Hollow follow-up and today’s entry is a follow-up to one of the most beloved Halloween/Holiday movies, The Nightmare Before Christmas
In a way, I get it as Hocus Pocus, The Legend of Sleepy Hollow and especially The Nightmare Before Christmas are what people think of when they think of Disney Halloween. I love Hocus Pocus myself and FYI the book sequel is a gazillion times better than the movie sequel but I’m biased because of gay witches.
I’d love a Halloweentown follow-up as that was heavy in my rotation around this month. When it comes to Nightmare though, Disney has nearly milked this cow dry. The book we are looking at isn’t even the first follow-up as there have been manga follow-ups and a video game sequel.
Again I get it and we are starting to see a similar trajectory with Hocus Pocus between the book sequel, the movie sequel and the girls having a stage show at Mickey’s Not So Scary Halloween whereas Oogie Boogie has a whole event named for him at California Adventure and Nightmare takes over Haunted Mansion this time of year at Disneyland.
It’s funny as I used to hate this movie and I think a big part of it came from the over-saturation of it everywhere. Just think back to early 2000’s Hot Topic as they had so much Nightmare merchandise, it felt inescapable but a few years ago after bonding with my sister at Disney World, I kinda got it as it’s her favorite Disney movie, I don’t mind it nowadays but it’s not my favorite or anything like I said I’m more a Hocus Pocus/Halloweentown person but it’s not a bad movie.
Now I’ll admit that I haven’t read anything by Ernshaw before this book but she seems to mostly be a YA fantasy author. This does fit with the type of book that Pumpkin Queen is as it fits that audience while also appealing to fans of the original movie. I wanted to look up an interview with Ernshaw about the book but the only one was a podcast without a transcript. There is a Nightmare Tumblr that points out some interesting details about the interview but doesn’t give too much depth into the hows and why of Ernshaw’s writing process for this book. The biggest thing it highlights is that Disney decided to have the book be a first-person POV. Ah well.
I listened to the audiobook for this review and I was quite excited when I heard Cissy Jones as the narrator. Jones is a rather prolific voice actor and for Disney fans, she is perhaps best known as Lilith Clawthorne from The Owl House.
And she does a great job in the role of Sally. It’s not exactly Catherine O’Hara’s Sally but it is similar enough to where she easily slips into the role considering this book as mentioned is written in a first-person POV and that works rather well for this story as it allows more insight into what Sally thinks.
The cover does a great job of evoking the feeling of the movie and putting Sally front and center. A nice little touch I like is how her throne is a tombstone. Also, it’s nice to see Sally looking happy on the cover after how nervous she was in the movie be it worrying about Jack’s antics or how Dr. Finklestein mistreated her.
At the same time, the cover does a good job of drawing you in and making the reader curious about what is in store for Sally in this book.
The best way to sum up the plot of this book is to say that Sally is suffering from imposter syndrome after being named the Pumpkin Queen. She doesn’t know what that entails even as Jack assures her that she’s the first Pumpkin Queen and she will set the example for what’s to come. This is what the whole book hinges on as after Jack and Sally go on their honeymoon in Valentine Town, she discovers a new door and accidentally lets out a creature from a new door to a realm called Dream Town, this creature being the Sandman. I find this interesting as I’m not used to villainous takes on the Sandman as my first thought is Sandy from Rise of the Guardians.
But it works as he travels through every realm putting everyone he comes across except for Sally to sleep. This leads Sally to discover why she wasn’t put to sleep. In many ways, he reminds me of the villain from the Frozen book, Polar Nights: Cast Into Darkness as that was a zombie-like creature that erased the memories of the citizens of Arendelle. I’ll touch upon that book later this month. Now as to why Sally didn’t fall asleep thanks to the Sandman’s dream sand, she’s from Dream Town, yeah Sally meets her parents in this book and they reveal that she is not a creation of Dr. Finklestein but rather he kidnapped her when she was only twelve and used some sort of potion to make her forget. This I like as I have always felt the movie would’ve been stronger if they had stuck with the original plan to reveal that Finklstein was Oogie Boogie all along.
Furthermore, Finklestein is finally punished at the end, and let’s just say I wouldn’t be surprised if Jack wanted to lay into the mad doctor after learning the truth of his kidnapping of Sally. On that topic, this book delves into the relationship between Finklestein and Sally, and hearing it from Sally’s perspective shows how abusive he was towards her and she knew it too as she constantly tried to escape. This is different from something such as the Rapunzel/Gothel abusive relationship as Rapunzel was made to believe that Gothel truly loved her whereas Sally always knew that Finklestein never cared about her and never viewed her as her own person.
This is interesting to me because it highlights that Sally is smart, she just needs some self-assurance to find her voice. And this does track with the movie’s portrayal of Sally as while the audience knows that she is a strong character, she always views herself as timid and weak. Even with her knowledge of tonics, she used to put Finklestein to sleep whenever she wanted to escape to see Jack and she uses that knowledge to stop the Sandman. This journey she goes on allows her to realize that she is strong and has always been a strong woman even when others tried to tell her otherwise.
My Final Thoughts
This is a very good book that does a good job of exploring who Sally is while expanding the lore of the movie with the tree doors and presenting new ones which I find to be a rather fun idea and is something I’d like to see more of. I also like how all the holidays come together and form a sort of UN of the holiday realms which is a cool idea. Join me next time as we head to The Haunted Mansion to look at…
The Haunted Mansion: Frights of Fancy