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The Phantom Tollbooth Hardcover – August 12, 1961
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Norton Juster received (and continues to receive) enormous praise for this original, witty, and oftentimes hilarious novel, first published in 1961. In an introductory "Appreciation" written by Maurice Sendak for the 35th anniversary edition, he states, "The Phantom Tollbooth leaps, soars, and abounds in right notes all over the place, as any proper masterpiece must." Indeed.
As Milo heads toward Dictionopolis he meets with the Whether Man ("for after all it's more important to know whether there will be weather than what the weather will be"), passes through The Doldrums (populated by Lethargarians), and picks up a watchdog named Tock (who has a giant alarm clock for a body). The brilliant satire and double entendre intensifies in the Word Market, where after a brief scuffle with Officer Short Shrift, Milo and Tock set off toward the Mountains of Ignorance to rescue the twin Princesses, Rhyme and Reason. Anyone with an appreciation for language, irony, or Alice in Wonderland-style adventure will adore this book for years on end. (Ages 8 and up)
--Anna Quindlen, The New York Times
"A classic... Humorous, full of warmth and real invention."
--The New Yorker
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Top Customer Reviews
As a child, I enjoyed reading the strange adventures of a bored Milo embarking on his legendary quest. As an adult, I enjoy the tome's play on words, such as the Whether man ("It's more important to know whether there will be weather, rather than what the weather will be") and the Isle of Conclusions, a place you have to jump to to get there. I also love the book's personifying such abstract concepts as statistics, like the (literally) half a child that Milo meets who's the end result of the average family having 2.58 children. It also has neat takes on people's points of view, like the boy who grows down, rather than up. Needless to say, it's pretty apparent that even though I loved this book as a kid, I appreciate it much more as an adult.
If you remember reading this as a child, I strongly recommend you give it a look again. You'll likely pick up on quite a few things in the story that you might not have gotten the gist of in your youth!
The story follows the journey of Milo, a boy bored of basically everything around him. One day he receives a mysterious package that turns out to be a tollbooth. For lack of anything better to do, he puts it together and begins to play, only to find himself driving in an entirely different world. There he meets all sort of curious creatures, from a giant watchdog (literally, a dog whose body is a watch) and a humbug the size of a person. Juster plays with words as if they were tangible objects to juggle, and continually surprises the reader by turning ordinary events into magical occurrences. This book very much exemplifies the quote (and I apologize for not naming the speaker, who slips my mind at this moment) "The universe is full of magical things, patiently waiting for our wits to get sharper."
Although Norton Juster's tale will probably never receive as much wild acclaim as the Harry Potter series, The Phantom Tollbooth nevertheless exhibits its own quiet charm. It is full of original characters and entertaining events, and I heartily recommend it for any child, or adult for that matter, who would like to be amused for a few hours on a rainy afternoon - especially if you think there's nothing to do! It is a wonderful book to read to a child, and the simple black and white drawings scattered throughout the text belie the vivid pictures that Juster paints with his words.
And couldn’t see the reason
For learning math or spelling bees
No matter what the season
At home one day he found a box
Not round, but not quite square
ONE GENU-INE TURNPIKE TOLLBOOTH
The label did declare
Intrigued, he jumped into his car
Although this was a toy
Through the tollbooth he then passed,
One jaded little boy
He found himself quite somewhere else
It happened very fast
“WELCOME TO EXPECTATIONS”
said a signpost that he passed
But in this land there was a feud
Between two stubborn brothers
One thought words were number one
While numbers were the other’s
Milo, Humbug, faithful Tock
Must help to set things straight
Get Rhyme and Reason to return
so the feuding will abate
The brilliance of this story lies
In the author’s verbal skill
The places and the characters
Provide a learning thrill
The characters are wonderful
The plotline never dull
You’ll read this story several times
Until your brain is full
So if you are a child at heart
From two to ninety two
I strongly recommend this one
To you, and you, and you
Amanda Richards, April 22, 2006
Adults for whom this book transports them back to childhood will particularly appreciate the wonderful collection of "celebrations" of The Phantom Tollbooth that appear at the end of the book. Some are written by respected children's authors, one is by a professor at Harvard Law School, another by a retired 5th grade teacher. Pulitzer prize winner Michael Chabon explores the importance of Mr. Juster's "acts of punmenship;" Maria Nikolajeva speaks of the crucial influence of this book on her life under the Soviet regime; Pat Scales reminds us to "Never underestimate the intelligence of children." Mo Willems opens his comments thus, "I have the great fortune to enjoy a regular occasional lunch with Mr. Norton Juster. Trust me, you need a great fortune to have lunch with Norton, because he never picks up the tab."
Fifty years after its original printing, this book is just as fresh and delightful as ever. Its word plays are just as surprising, its encouragement of curiosity and warning against ignorance just as pertinent. Whether you're starting into your fifteenth reading of this book or are one of the lucky readers picking it up for the first time, you're in for a treat.
Most Recent Customer Reviews
This book was exactly what I was looking for. My daughter needed it for her school report, and it came as a very fast shipment.Published 3 days ago by Jessica Covington
im only in sixth grade but we just read this book in school it is the coolest book ever so join milo,tock,and the humbug on a journey to meet azaz,and the math magician,spelling... Read morePublished 4 days ago by Amazon Customer
I read this aloud with my children - 7 and 10 years old. We all enjoyed it, and my 10 year old particularly enjoyed the humor and plays on words. Read morePublished 8 days ago by Julie L. Stout
One of my favorite books, love the word play. I loved sharing it with my children.Published 9 days ago by John F. Robison
I've read this book multiple times and each time a new facet is uncovered. Required reading for anyone who loves to imagine.Published 9 days ago by Maiju
I love this book and have read it many times. I have the print version, but wanted the ebook version. It has the same drawings as the print version, bringing the book alive. Read morePublished 11 days ago by T. Juneau
Loved this book as a child so I had to get it on my kindle.Published 11 days ago by Jessica Philipp