The Phantom Tollbooth by Norton Juster

Phantom TollboothInformation

Goodreads: The Phantom Tollbooth
Source: Purchased
Published: 1961


Nothing ever interests Milo until the day a mysterious tollbooth appears in his apartment.  Deciding he has nothing better to do, Milo passes through and is amazed to find himself travelling in a completely new world where words grow on trees, orchestras create colors, and time literally flies.  Unfortunately, the monsters of Chaos lurk on the borders, ready to return unless Milo and his friends can rescue the princesses of Rhyme and Reason from their airy prison.


Norton Juster takes readers on a delightful romp through a world full of wit and whimsy where words grow on trees, symphonies can create color, and math performs magic.  His lively imagination never fails, whirling readers breathlessly along with Milo and his friends as they go on an impossible journey to return Rhyme and Reason to a land gone mad.  Though readers may sometimes think they suspect where Juster is going, his ingenuity never fails; surprises await around every corner, revealing truths about our own world even as they amuse with their cleverness.

Though the wordplay takes center stage, Milo and the companions he meets along the way have a charm all their own.  Milo may not seem initially likable–he is a child so bored that he always longs to be where he is not–but he possesses a subtle perceptiveness as well as a certain adherence to logic that prove endearing.  His friend the Watch Dog also enchants; he provides good advice while offering a touching loyalty to the little boy who gives him a ride.  Rounding out the unlikely questing trio is the Humbug–a disagreeable fellow who always tries to get out of hard work and to lay the blame for mishaps on others.  Every time I read The Phantom Tollbooth I wonder why Juster decided to include such a character–and why he never ends up as annoying as I would have suspected.

The Phantom Tollbooth is a children’s classic for a reason–it hits all the right notes, by turns delighting, instructing, and surprising and, though one might suspect the wordplay would grow old, it feels fresh every time I reread it.  It is a book that celebrates its bookishness while simultaneously celebrating the world around it.  It promises adventure, and it delivers.


4 thoughts on “The Phantom Tollbooth by Norton Juster

  1. Anahera says:

    This is making me feel nostalgic and making me want to read it again. 🙂 I think I saw the animated version of this, and now I want to watch that too! Haha!


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