October 06, 2011

The Phantom Tollbooth by Norton Juster

I love this book!!! There is something about traveling with Milo that appeals to me at all ages, when I was a kid, and even now. It could be the clever ideas, witty dialogues, and interesting characters. But I think there's much more as well to make this book such a joy to read.

Milo has come home from school and once again can't find anything to do. He's not interested as much and looks glumly around when he finds a package waiting in his room. Inside is a genuine tollbooth with signs and a couple coins for passage. With nothing better to do, he sets it up, gets in his car, and proceeds to go through.

He doesn't just end up in his room though. He ends up in Expectations. There's some strange characters here to be sure. Especially in the doldrums, where he is stuck until a helpful watchdog named Tock helps him escape. Together they go to Dictionopolis where they meet the King and learn a bit about words. Also here, the humbug joins their journey. Their new mission, on behalf of the King, is to rescue Rhyme and Reason, two princesses who were banished by the King and his brother when they made a decision they didn't like.

With the King's blessing, they set off only to go through a forest of sound, jump to the Island of Conclusions, and help many people along the way. They reach Digitopolis where the King's brother rules. Here the numbers are many and the problems confusing, but they manage to outsmart the King for his blessing to rescue the princesses as well.

The only thing left is to scale the Mountains of Ignorance to get the princesses. But there are plenty of demons along the way to stop them. Is Milo up to the challenge?

The characters in this are great. They all fit their parts well and while their names may be confusing to younger readers, what better way to introduce the dictionary as a learning tool. And to be sure, this book is also an excellent learning tool. Milo especially grows throughout the book and you find yourself satisfied with his courage, bravery, fortitude, intrepidness, and pluck.

This book, because it is technically is a children's book, has many pictures. While they are a good way of getting a visual of the characters, I could help but hope for color. They seem to be of a pen and ink style with various types of black lines. However, Tock is absolutely adorable.

Juster has a great writing style. He isn't afraid to challenge the younger crowd with his words and style. He is entirely clever and the book is written in the 3rd person. Such a wonderful book and an absolute treasure to the literary world. Everyone should read this book at least once!

The Phantom Tollbooth
Copyright 1961
256 pages

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