13 October 2010

Book Review: The Phantom Tollbooth

Title: The Phantom Tollbooth
Author: Norton Juster
Publisher: Bullseye Books
Release Date: 1961
Date Finished: 9 October 2010

Buy | Borrow | Accept | Avoid

Challenges: 100+ Reading, Hogwarts Reading Challenge, Reading Resolutions, Young Adult Reading

The Short and Sweet of It
Milo is a bored kid who finds no pleasure in anything until one day a special package arrives for him, a tollbooth. Once he pays his passage, he is transported to a new world where a fight between two brothers makes them imprison their sisters, Rhyme and Reason. Without Rhyme and  Reason, the kingdom of Wisdom has fallen. Each brother’s kingdom thrives: Dictionopolis, where words reign supreme, and Digitolopolis, where only numbers matter. Now Milo must save Rhyme and Reason to bring Wisdom back to the kingdom.

A Bit of a Ramble

Totally awesome read. Like Gaiman/Pratchett/Adams for children. Delightfully clever and thematically important, The Phantom Tollbooth is one of my favorite reads of all time. At its core, The Phantom Tollbooth is about the quest for knowledge. Milo, and his sidekicks a watchdog and a Humbug, take this wonderfully allegorical journey that is bound to delight kids and adults alike. Go. Read it. Now.

Sarcasm (for a Readathon Mini Challenge)
Ladies and Gentlemen, readers of the more subtle, discreet, and discerning nature, hear me and my most horrid predicament. Just yesterday while perusing my local library, I came across a most offensive book. The Phantom Tollbooth by Norton Juster. In this wretched book which is sure to corrupt our children, the main character Milo is a perfectly reasonable, manageable, well-behaved boy when a mysterious package arrives for him. Not having the proper and appropriate parental guidance, he opens this package and assembles the tollbooth inside by himself and begins to...I can barely write this dear readers for fear of upsetting your delicate sensibilities..he begins to IMAGINE. His indelicate role-playing leads him to a different world where he is taught all manner of unspeakable things such as the importance of wisdom and the necessity to defy authority in the face of rhyme and reason. He also finds himself in the presence of many magical beings, which as we all know, are ferocious and satanic beasts. After his adventures in this insufferable land, Milo returns home a changed boy. He is no longer content to merely lie about being perfectly  undetectable which is most appropriate for a child. Instead, he now wishes to EXPLORE and PRETEND and HAVE ADVENTURES and in general be a most bothersome child. This book must be immediately banned so as not give our children any IDEAS. 

The Filmic Connection
I think it would be wonderful if they turned this book into a blockbuster movie, but I see a lot of logistical problems unless it is done very very well with a big budget. There is a 1970 live action/animated film, but I can't comment on it as I have never seen it.

This Book Around the Web
If I've missed your review, let me know!


Question: Has anyone seen the movie? Should I watch it?


  1. You know they're writing another book together now, Norton Juster and Jules Feiffer illustrating? I am excited like a little child. I need that book to come out tomorrow.

  2. I never even heard of this book until a year ago, and people have told me if I didn't read it as a child there is less liklihood that I'd like it as an adult. Do you think that's true? I've been afraid of trying it...

  3. I really need to reread this one. I loved it as a kid, and I have a feeling I'll love it even more as an adult.

  4. I got this from the library and tried to read it, but I just couldn't, even though I could tell I would have *loved* it as a younger person!

  5. Amanda - I just read the book for the Readathon having never read it as a child. I really enjoyed it -- it's very clever. I'd say give it a go. It'll take you a few hours at most, and I bet you'll be amused!

    Trisha - I love the banning argument! As for the movie, I've never seen it but usually don't like book-based movies anyway. IMDB seems to think there may be a remake coming in 2013, so you could always wait for that!

  6. I love this book and have passed it on to everyone in my house, including my husband who also loved it. It's the kind of read that you can just sit and savor for a half hour and come away from feeling so happy and uplifted! Great double review! I am so glad to see that you chose to spotlight this one on your blog!

  7. I need to reread this! I was in a play version of it as a kid and read the book at that time, though I recall very little of the story.

  8. This has always been a favorite of mine. The 1970s movie is a bit odd, but the book is so wonderful!

  9. "Like Gaiman/Pratchett/Adams for children." Say no more! I can't believe I've never read this.

  10. This is awful! I am never allowing my future children to read this!!

    LOL, just kidding. Your review made me laugh. =) I never actually read this one before.

  11. How much do I love the sarcasm part? SOOOOOOO MUCH!

    This book rocks! I already have a copy just waiting for my Little One to read ... so I can corrupt his little mind!

  12. Your sarcasm section is outstanding ... maybe you should include this feature in your reviews on a regular basis. ;-)

    This is a book that, believe it or not, I'd never heard of until I started homeschooling my monkeys. Then I went after it like a rabid wolf, because of all the imaginative elements AND all the math involved!

    I loved it. I used to have a quote from the book in my blog sidebar -- something the Princess of Rhyme or the Princess of Reason said that I thought was priceless. I've forgotten it now.

  13. I just read a different review of this and now I so deeply want to read it. I never read this one as a kid, but I cannot figure out why. It sounds just charming and hilarious.

  14. I saw Norton Juster at the National Book Festival!! He was a hoot and a half :) His talk is finally up on the Library of Congress website: http://www.loc.gov/bookfest/author/Norton_Juster

  15. I think she is over protective but opinions can differ, if in doubt ask the experts like counsellors and pyschologists, even teachers. They don't allow their children to grow and mature, see other websites...

  16. I absolutely loved this when I was younger. Nice that you reminded me of that! Woohoo!


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