Tuesday, October 11, 2011

The Phantom Tollbooth (Norton Juster)

Title: The Phantom Tollbooth
Author: Norton Juster (Illustrator Jules Feiffer)
Publisher: Alfred A. Knopf
Length: 256 pages
Rating: 5/5

I’m either fifty years late to this party, or have perfect timing as to finally read this great classic on its fiftieth anniversary. Let’s go with the latter. What can I say that hasn't been said (see this New Yorker article for more about its history)? It’s the American Alice in Wonderland, a book where word-play rules and there is a fine line between imagination and real life.

It was refreshing to read a book with illustrations, and there are so many crazy visuals in the book, the pictures were necessary. Don’t classic children’s books always have the perfect marriage between words and pictures? Even for me, a some-what adult reader, some things were hard to picture because they were so abstract. A marketplace of word! Stairs to infinity! The demons of Gross Exaggeration and Threadbare Excuses!

The English major in me was having a field day with the way words were used, and I thought, every English major should be required to read this. But philosophy majors and even math majors would find something to enjoy. Perhaps every college student should read this.

It’s a book for all ages that reminds us that there are plenty of demons slowing us down, but with a little imagination and determination, even the impossible is possible. 

Favorite quote: “I think I’ll continue to see things as a child. It’s not so far to fall.” –Milo
This is why I love children’s and young adult books. This is why I want to work in children’s publishing. My own version of being Peter Pan.  

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