- Paperback: 272 pages
- Publisher: Bullseye Books; Reprint edition (October 12, 1988)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0394820371
- ISBN-13: 978-0394820378
- Product Dimensions: 5.2 x 0.6 x 7.6 inches
- Shipping Weight: 6.4 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
- Average Customer Review: 1,427 customer reviews
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The Phantom Tollbooth Paperback – October 12, 1988
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" 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
From the Inside Flap
Illustrated in black-and-white. This ingenious fantasy centers around Milo, a bored ten-year-old who comes home to find a large toy tollbooth sitting in his room. Joining forces with a watchdog named Tock, Milo drives through the tollbooth's gates and begins a memorable journey. He meets such characters as the foolish, yet lovable Humbug, the Mathemagician, and the not-so-wicked "Which," Faintly Macabre, who gives Milo the "impossible" mission of returning two princesses to the Kingdom of Wisdom.
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Milo is a boy who is ALWAYS bored. Then, one day he comes home from school to find The Phantom Tollbooth, with directions for assembly, a book of rules, maps, and two coins for the toll. Luckily, Milo also has a driveable toy electric car, so, after the tollbooth is together, he gets in his little car, drops in one of the coins, and off he goes, looking for something that he hopes might not be boring.
And so he goes, having fun times, meeting creatures we all know...a dog with a clock for a body (a watch dog, of course), a large bug that brags without reason and claims always to know the answers (a humbug). He goes to a banquet, but has to eat his words, and wishes he had given a shorter and yummier speech. If I started telling you all the delightful word play I would have to eventually copy the entire book. The author does a magnificent job and his love of words is obvious. No phrase is too small to take literally or juggle into new meanings.
Yet, even in the happy lands of Dictionopolis and Digitopolis....a city that uses numbers like Dictionopolis uses words...there is a problem. Throughout the entire Empire of Wisdom, there is no Rhyme or Reason, who were exiled. Milo, Tock, the watchdog, and the Humbug, start off to bring Rhyme and Reason back to the Empire of Wisdom. They have, of course, many adventures, but the mission doesn't actually become dangerous until they reach the Mountains of Ignorance, where they are beset by terrible demons: the Everpresent Wordsnatcher, who constantly interrupts, the Terrible Trivium, who wastes time doing unimportant, repetitive tasks, the Senses Taker, who wastes time filling out forms with useless information until the person is too bored to go do something more important, the long-nosed, green-eyed, curly-haired, wide-mouthed, thick-necked, broad-shouldered, round-bodied, short-armed, bowlegged, big-footed monster, who is, of course, none of these things, and is, in real life, the Demon of Insincerity. There are too many demons and monsters to mention here, but everyone is a demon you will recognize from your own life, slowing you down, wasting your time, and trying to confuse you.
After a couple of close calls, the three make it to The Castle In The Air and rescue the sisters, bringing Rhyme and Reason back to the Empire of Wisdom. There is much celebration, but Milo, worried that he has been away for so long, gets back in his little car and returns home, where only an hour has passed and the only thing that has changed is Milo, himself, who is no longer bored.
It's a marvelous book, quite suitable for children...none of the "demons" are scary to the youngest child, but I honestly don't believe a child can really appreciate the book's play with words, phrases and numbers. You would have to stop and explain a lot. I'd wait until my kid had a good grounding in the English language before I'd give her this book and, if she didn't like it, I'd try again a few years later. But don't forget to read it yourself. This is one of my favorite books of all time, and five stars just aren't enough to rate it with.
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!
Especially if you are an incorrigible punster (do not incorrige), read this book. It is well worth it.