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The Phantom Tollbooth Paperback – October 12, 1988
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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) --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
" 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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When he was in school he longed to be out, and when he was out he longed to be in. On the way he thought about coming home, and coming home he thought about going. Wherever he was he wished he were somewhere else, and when he got there he wondered why he'd bothered. Nothing really interested him — least of all the things that should have."
And with that, Milo is any real life kid who's bored of the world around him, until he gets a mysterious package and goes on a trip through the Phantom Tollbooth. Written in 1961, this childrens' novel is fabulous. It reinforces that even though there are things that you need to learn, you have to be balanced and not dismiss the ideas of others. I introduced it to my 5-year-old a chapter or two a night as a bedtime story, and now at 6 he has his own copy to read and love and read again.
I first discovered this story when I was in fifth grade, when I watched the cartoon in an after-school special. I rediscovered it in a novel on my first day at college. (This rediscovery confirmed that, without a doubt, the book is much, much better than the movie.)
This book is good for every reader of any age. Everyone will find something to take away, rediscover and learn. The final lesson of the book has helped me through many an adventure. I give a copy of this book to everyone I can, and I've personally thanked the author and illustrator for this wonderful gift.
Please, please read this book. Stop everything you're doing and meet Milo, Tock and the whole gang. You'll be glad you did.