Of all the books I read while growing up, The Phantom Tollbooth has always been my favorite. I’ve re-read it countless times, more than any other book. Each time I read it, I laugh out loud at all of the whimsical silliness as Milo discovers the imaginative world beyond the tollbooth.
It is a delightful tale that will inspire young readers while showing them a different perspective on so many things they are learning in school. As you read my books, you’ll likely see the influence in my writing from this amazing book. It is an absolutely must read!
The Phantom Tollbooth
Author: Norton Juster
Illustrator: Jules Feiffer
Paperback: 272 pages
Formats: Hardcover, paperback, eBook, audiobook
It’s about a boy named Milo who is bored with everything. When he is at school, he longs to be at home. When he is at home, he wants to be somewhere else. Nothing interests him and everything seems like a waste of time; especially learning anything new.
Then one day he comes home from school to find a mysterious present for him. Inside is a genuine, turnpike tollbooth. With nothing that interests him to do, he decides to give it a try. He follows the instructions to assemble it, climbs in his small electric car, pays the toll and drives through. To his surprise, Milo finds himself entering a strange world filled with silly characters and places that make no sense.
With nothing better to do, Milo decides to explore this mixed up world and visit the cities of Dictionopolis and Digitopolis. Along the way, he makes friend with a dog with the body of a giant, ticking alarm clock. He soon discovers that the logic of this silly world is odd and confusing. Everyone he meets is a play on words that makes him examine the difference between what he said and what he meant.
Milo visits a market where people are buying and selling letters and words. He meets a boy who was born in the air with his head at the exact height he is going to be. Who grows down from the air instead of up from the ground. After watching a conductor leading an orchestra in creating a beautiful sunset, he tries it himself when the conductor is sleeping. Further along his journey, Milo meets the Mathemagician who mines numbers from deep in the ground like precious stones.
Soon Milo learns about the great animosity between the brothers who each rule the kingdoms of Digitopolis and Digitopolis respectively. This led to a huge dispute where they banished the princesses Rhyme and Reason in the castle in the air. Since then, the lands had fallen into disrepair.
So Milo sets out with his trusty watchdog and a grumbly humbug to rescue the princess and restore harmony to the land. Along the way, the trio meets a collection of strange villains who work to prevent him from reaching the princesses, such as an elegant-looking gentleman with no face that convince them to empty one well and fill another using an eyedropper.
The Phantom Tollbooth is a fantastic book and my absolute favorite read of all time. The world is so fun and silly. Each encounter with a different character makes you think and gives you a different perspective on words, phrases, and things we pay no attention to every day.
I highly recommend this book to all young readers who haven’t discovered it yet.