Sonderbooks Book Reviews by Sondra Eklund

Sonderbooks Stand-out 2005
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****The Phantom Tollbooth

by Norton Juster

illustrations by Jules Feiffer

Reviewed October 6, 2005.
Alfred A. Knopf, New York, 1996.  First published in 1961.  256 pages.
Available at Sembach Library (JF JUS).
Sonderbooks Stand-out 2005 (#3, Young Adult and Children's Classics)

I still remember my ninth birthday when I bought myself a copy of The Phantom Tollbooth.  My parents had given me thirty dollars, and I bought nine Black Stallion books and The Phantom Tollbooth.  (If only thirty dollars would buy so many books today!  All the Black Stallion books were even hardback!)  My best friend Kathe was the one who recommended The Phantom Tollbooth to me, as well as being the one who first told me about the Black Stallion books.  Thank you, Kathe!

Now I had the joy of reading The Phantom Tollbooth to my eleven-year-old son.

Milo is a boy who isn’t much interested in anything.  When he finds a mysterious package in his room, he can’t help but be curious.  He opens it to find a toy tollbooth to assemble.  He builds it and then drives through with his electric car—and discovers himself in a whole other world.

Milo has entered the Kingdom of Wisdom, where he finds the world of knowledge personified and illustrated.  Right at the beginning, he encounters Tock, the Watchdog (with a large clock in the middle of his body).  They travel throughout the kingdom meeting all kinds of interesting people and things.  Eventually, they decide to rescue the princesses Rhyme and Reason, who were banished when they told their brothers, King Azaz of Dictionopolis and the Mathemagician of Digitopolis, that words and numbers are equally important.

This book is absolutely full of puns, such as a giant insect called the Spelling Bee and a banquet where you have to eat your words.  My son groaned when he heard them, but seemed to enjoy them all the same.  This book gives a fun adventure sure to entertain as well as enlighten.  It’s as much fun to read decades later as it was when I was nine years old.

Reviews of other books by Norton Juster and Jules Feiffer:
The Odious Ogre
Bark, George!
Rupert Can Dance

Copyright © 2005 Sondra Eklund.  All rights reserved.

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