the phantom tollbooth

Juster wrote The Phantom Tollbooth in 1961, but it is truly a timeless work, in every sense of the word.  Not only has the humor and sentiment of the book withstood the decades, but so little of the story is attached to a recognizable time and place that children could easily imagine Milo to be a boy living down their own street.

Instead, The Phantom Tollbooth primarily takes place in an entirely imagined and fantastical world.  Milo, a bored boy, one day discovers a toy toll booth to assemble in his bedroom.  Because nothing else interests him, he puts it together, drives his car through, and finds himself in the Kingdom of Wisdom with a literal watchdog named Tock as a sidekick.

Though the book has a central plot and continuing storyline, Milo’s adventures throughout the Kingdom read more like a series of short stories.  The series of characters Milo and Tock meet are both silly and astonishing, at times both thought-provoking and giggle-inducing.

The imagination and sense of fun needed to write such a book are both noteworthy.  But what shines through most clearly is Juster’s love of language; the book is full of puns and wordplay that could only have been created by someone who revels in the delight of the possibilities the English language offers. Some puns might be over the heads of the book’s intended audience, but I don’t doubt that the generations of parents that have read the book aloud have appreciated their insertion.  And I would also imagine that this book has played a role in the creation of some word lovers; when better, after all, to be introduced to the playfulness and joy language has to offer than as a child?

Entirely enjoyable and thoroughly charming, The Phantom Tollbooth has a lot to offer to readers of any age.  But though I read it and loved it on my own, I would hazard a guess that it would be even more enjoyable if shared across generations.

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~ by Molly on August 5, 2009.

2 Responses to “the phantom tollbooth”

  1. Wow, that sounds good. I think I’ll look into that one. Thanks for the review!

  2. Hi, I’m stopping by from the Classics Challenge. This was one of my favorite books as a child! You make me want to read it again as a (sort-of) grown-up. 🙂

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