Tuesday, January 12, 2016

The Phantom Tollbooth

Author: Norton Juster
Originally Published: 1961
Length: 256 pages
Source: Nook
Challenge: Back to the Classics 2016

Personal Enjoyment Factor:4.5/5

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.

Young Milo is letting the wonder of life pass by unobserved and unappreciated.  Youth truly is wasted on the young! But that's all about to change when he arrives home to find a mysterious tollbooth waiting in his bedroom.  Without much hesitation, he takes the bait and embarks on a journey to a land filled with whimsy, wonder, conflict and uncertainty. Milo learns to live in the moment and open his mind to new ideas, all while becoming an unlikely hero determined to bring Rhyme and Reason back to a land embittered by a battle between words and numbers. 

I read this because my daughter told me to and you always read what your daughter tells you to read.  I remember seeing this book in my school library when I was in fourth grade. (I can still vividly picture my elementary school library and many of the books I checked out.  I wonder if that's normal?) I never read it, and I've always assumed it was about a ghost named "Tollbooth." And that Tollbooth was a dog with a clock on him.  I was obviously wrong, but there's really no way to anticipate what this book has in store for its readers. A symphony that composes the colors in the world. A Valley of Sound plagued by silence. A market of words.  I loved the witty puns and the power of words. One of my favorites was the wagon that moves when everyone is silent--it "goes without saying."  And I  loved the banquet where they gave "speeches" listing foods, because they "ate their words." My speech would go like this: 

"Avocados, enchiladas, asparagus, Chex mix, Diet Coke Lime, banana cream pie." 

 I think I'd be sick, but in this case I wouldn't mind eating my words.


  1. I'd swear I've read this book long ago, but I don't at all remember it the way you describe, so maybe I read something else. I, too, can recall distinctly the layout of my elementary school library, and on which shelf I found my favorites- it's a very spatial memory. Most libraries I frequented a lot I have such clear memories of- the public library my mom took me to as a kid, the one at my junior college, the branch I went to near my university apartment, the one near the last house I had... I bet lots of readers are like that.

    1. Good to hear I'm not the only one! You're right--it's probably very common among book lovers. I remember exactly where my favorite section was in my local library. Sadly, the branch closed a couple of years ago. I regret not making time to visit it before it was too late!

  2. I don't think I read this book until I was in highschool, but I remember really loving. The wordplay is a lot of fun!