Long Live the Pumpkin Queen

Long Live the Pumpkin Queen Shea Ernshaw

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Book Review

After the events of Tim Burton’s, The Nightmare Before Christmas, Jack Skellington and Sally the ragdoll marry. And only the just-crowned Queen of Halloween Town can save the day when a new and unknown nightmare creeps in.

Plot Summary

Sally the living ragdoll is now queen of Halloween Town. She doesn’t feel much like a queen, but after marrying her truest of loves, Jack Skellington, she is indeed one of only two royals in the land.

The vampires and witches of her cobwebby realm expect her to act and dress differently. They demand that she stand up straight and be graceful as a queenly queen of the night ought to. When the newly married couple take a short honeymoon in Valentine’s Town, they discover the queen of that realm is every inch the graceful, beautiful and regal monarch that a holiday town deserves. But Sally?

Other than being the queen of her beloved Jack’s heart—something that Sally is unquestionably certain she was stitched together to be—she has huge doubts about fulfilling any kind of look-at-me leadership role. She’s just not stuffed that way. When Sally looks in the mirror, she sees a collection of patchwork cloth and roughly sewn stiches filled with crumbling brown, dead leaves. How can that be a queen?   

In her despair, Sally runs from town, with loyal ghost dog Zero on her heels. They find themselves in the grove of trees that hold portals to other holiday realms. Should she just go back to the lovely Valentine’s Town and hide out for a while? Sally wonders. Would Jack be angry if she simply disappeared and left all the stress behind?

That’s when Sally and Zero are drawn to a hidden-away, briar-covered tree that she’s never seen before. And when she opens the door in this portal tree, she suddenly feels light-headed and dizzy and almost falls in. It takes all of Sally’s will, and quite a bit of tugging from Zero, to keep her out of the mysterious doorway carved with an ancient image of a moon.

Upon returning home, however, Sally soon realizes that she may have released a new nightmare on the land. She didn’t venture in, but something might’ve come out of that strange open door. In fact, this bad dream may now infect all the holiday realms and the human world, too.

Can the stitched-together and self-proclaimed ragdoll fool also be a hero? Sally may not be the queen that some in Halloween Town wanted, but she’ll have to become the queen that Halloween Town needs!

Christian Beliefs

Sally visits holiday realms that include both Christmas and Easter. But neither promote any Christian or faith-focused elements. Instead, the realms are filled with elves, bunnies and other fantasy elements of the holidays.

Other Belief Systems

The portals to the holiday and ancient realms, and the realms themselves, all seem to incorporate some sort of magic. We meet a leprechaun who gives Sally a lucky four-leaf clover, for instance, and we see flying cupids and other fantasy characters.

In fact, Sally (a life-sized ragdoll) and Jack Skellington (an animated skeleton) are both living, breathing “people” who live in a Halloween land populated by vampires, ghouls, werewolves, ghosts and other creepy characters. And the central baddie, The Sandman, and his sleep-inducing sand are both simply accepted for their magical properties as well.

Sally remembers the mad scientist Dr. Finkelstein telling her: “Curiosity will be the devil of you, or the death, whichever comes first.”

Authority Roles

Sally always believed that she was created through some scientific experiment conducted by the wheelchair-bound mad scientist, Dr. Finkelstein. He never treated Sally kindly and, though we only briefly encounter him, Sally remembers his words and the way he mistreated her. During this tale, however, Sally meets two other ragdoll people who claim to be her parents. They have their own moment of failing, making a deceptive choice for what they consider to be good reasons. But they are overall loving and sincere.

Jack is a very loving and considerate husband. He listens carefully to Sally’s feelings and concerns, and he does everything he can to aid and support her. Others in Halloween Town are more judgmental of Sally. But even they come to recognize that Sally is much more that she seems.

Profanity & Violence

No foul language except for one use of the English profanity “bloody.”

Though there is an ongoing sense of threat coming from The Sandman, we only see him get angry and destroy things after Sally confronts him. The baddie rips apart some full-sized ragdoll decoys Sally makes, and at one point it appears that he may rip her apart as well.

Sally rips stitches, falls and twists her leg and has her arm pulled off in the course of her adventures. But thanks to the fact that she is a ragdoll, she simply stitches herself back together.

Halloween Town residents talk of burning a villain or throwing him off a cliff. When Sally first spots the bearded Sandman, she thinks he looks like a man who had been buried alive and had to claw his way back to the surface.

Sally makes mention of some St Patrick’s Day residents who sit with unfinished “pints” in front of them. And Sally creates potions (sleep and anti-sleep)—created from ingredients she gathers in the fields and from Dr. Finkelstein’s lab.

Sexual Content

While visiting Valentine’s Town, Sally spots two men “entangled” romantically in a doorway. Someone notes how wonderful their love is.

Sally and Jack kiss several times. In fact, later in the story she kisses him awake. While on their honeymoon, Jack and Sally wake up in bed together. But there is no indication that they did anything else but sleep in that bed together.

Discussion Topics

Sally talks about all the things she doesn’t like about herself, feeling that she’s not good for much other than being a useless ragdoll. Have you ever felt similar things about yourself? God doesn’t see you like that. What does the Bible say makes you worthy and good?

Sally also finds that she was far more capable than she thought. Have you ever realized that you have strengths you aren’t considering? Are there good things about you that some people never see?

Take a look at 2 Timothy 2:15, Proverbs 4:6-7 and Deuteronomy 31:6. Are there things in those verses that you can hold true in your own life?

What’s the biggest lesson you can take away from Sally’s story? What part did you enjoy most?

Get free discussion question for books at focusonthefamily.com/magazine/thriving-family-book-discussion-questions.

Additional Comments

This follow-up tale to Tim Burton’s pic The Nightmare Before Christmas holds a few creepy elements and even an unexpected nod toward same-sex romance. But this fan-focused tale also speaks to the power of love and striving bravely to use your strengths to help others—even when you’re not sure you have any. In addition, the book shares some involving scenes of familial love and forgiveness.

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Book reviews cover the content, themes and worldviews of fiction books, not necessarily their literary merit, and equip parents to decide whether a book is appropriate for their children. The inclusion of a book’s review does not constitute an endorsement by Focus on the Family.

Review by Bob Hoose