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The Phantom Tollbooth Hardcover – August 12, 1961
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"It seems to me that almost everything is a waste of time," Milo laments. "[T]here's nothing for me to do, nowhere I'd care to go, and hardly anything worth seeing." This bored, bored young protagonist who can't see the point to anything is knocked out of his glum humdrum by the sudden and curious appearance of a tollbooth in his bedroom. Since Milo has absolutely nothing better to do, he dusts off his toy car, pays the toll, and drives through. What ensues is a journey of mythic proportions, during which Milo encounters countless odd characters who are anything but dull.
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)
" I read [The Phantom Tollbooth] first when I was 10. I still have the book report I wrote, which began 'This is the best book ever.'"
--Anna Quindlen, The New York Times
"A classic... Humorous, full of warmth and real invention."
--The New Yorker
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Especially if you are an incorrigible punster (do not incorrige), read this book. It is well worth it.
If you want philosophy suitable for a young mind, this is excellent. If you're not above reading a "children's book" if you're not a child, it's still great philosophy, mythology, word play, and creative genesis. Sure, as a society we first need to learn rules, what things mean. But once the rules are learned then you need to learn when they should be broken. Not everything has to make rigid sense. Once a surface meaning is discovered you don't quit searching, you can keep digging for the underlying meaning and learn more about the world and more about yourself. This is like beginner semiotics, early lessons in meaning-making. Sometimes watches tick. Sometimes they tock. Also it's fun!
This book explores English and mathematics, and connects them together in a world of their own. A world filled with puns and wordplay.
Milo is filled with ennui, and can find nothing that interests or excites him. The arrival of a cardboard tollbooth and little electric car send him into a world of adventure and exploration where his expectations are overturned.
His traveling companion is Tock, a dog with a clock in it's middle. He turns out to be both lovable, and offers often dry comments on the situation at hand. I never warmed up to the Humbug, who seemed to me to be part snake oil salesman. Yet he has his lovable moments.
If you have not read this book to your child, or have not given it to him or her to read on their own, then I think they are sadly deprived children.