The Phantom Tollbooth
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“It sort of feels 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, all through which Milo encounters countless atypical 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 far and wide, as any proper masterpiece will have to.” Indeed.
As Milo heads toward Dictionopolis he meets with the Whether Man (“for in any case 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 used to be 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
See all Editorial Reviews
With almost 4 million copies sold over 50 years after its original publication, generations of readers have now journeyed with Milo to the Lands Beyond in this beloved classic that Philip Pullman says “comes up bright and new every time I read it . . . it is going to continue to charm and delight for a long time yet. And teach us some wisdom, too.” Enriched by Jules Feiffer’s splendid illustrations, the wit, wisdom, and wordplay of Norton Juster’s offbeat fantasy are as beguiling as ever. For Milo, everything’s a bore. When a tollbooth mysteriously appears in his room, he drives through only because he’s got nothing better to do. But on the other side, things seem different. Milo visits the Island of Conclusions (you get there by jumping), learns about time from a ticking watchdog named Tock, and even embarks on a quest to rescue Rhyme and Reason. Somewhere along the way, Milo realizes something astonishing. Life is far from dull. In truth, it’s exciting beyond his wildest dreams!
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