The Phantom Tollbooth by Norton Juster

Phantomtollbooth256 pages
First Published in 1961
Source: Borrowed from Library

Synopsis: Milo mopes in black ink sketches, until he assembles a tollbooth and drives through. He jumps to the island of Conclusions. But brothers King Azaz of Dictionopolis and the Mathemagician of Digitopolis war over words and numbers. Joined by ticking watchdog Tock and adult-size Humbug, Milo rescues the Princesses of Rhyme and Reason, and learns to enjoy life.

Review: Full disclosure: I never read this book when I was a child. I remember buying it when I was maybe 11 or 12, but never got around to reading it, because I found it dull at the time. I’m glad I did finally get around to reading the book, however.

The wordplay and puns in this book are fantastic. I like the idea of taking common idioms and expression and turning them on their heads and making a crazy and nonsensical world out of them. I am also curious as to how this book was translated into other languages. It makes me want to find the German version to see how the idioms compare, because English is a very punny language, in comparison to a language like German. I also liked many of the characters in the book, especially the dog. Based on the cover, I would have thought that Tock, the dog, would have been an enemy rather than an ally, but I liked him as an animal companion. I also liked the symphony of colors and the idea that sounds, words and numbers can be collected, hoarded and given away.

However, I felt that the story was rushed and I wish the world could have been filled out and illustrated a little better. I felt like Milo and his companions just raced from place to place and there was a moral in each place, but I felt it needed some fleshing out. That was my biggest complaint about the book. Great idea with an interesting world, but everything felt a little rushed. Also, I borrowed this as an e-book from the library and the map was not included! Not the fault of the author, but I had to go online to look at the map. I also thought the illustrations perfectly fit the story. They are rough pencil drawings, but they perfectly fit the world that Juster has imagined.

Overall, I did enjoy the book, but I think because I never read it as a child, I don’t love it in the same way that someone who read it as a child would.

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