The Phantom Tollbooth by Norton Juster

Hailed as “a classic… humorous, full of warmth and real invention” (The New York Times), this beloved story — first published more than fifty years ago — introduces readers to Milo and his adventures in the Lands Beyond.

For Milo, everything’s a bore. When a tollbooth mysteriously appears in his room, he drives through only because he’s got nothing better to do. But on the other side, things seem different. Milo visits the Island of Conclusions (you get there by jumping), learns about time from a ticking watchdog named Tock, and even embarks on a quest to rescue Rhyme and Reason! Somewhere along the way, Milo realizes something astonishing. Life is far from dull. In fact, it’s exciting beyond his wildest dreams….

In our current situation, there is no better book to quash boredom than The Phantom Tollbooth. It’s one of the most profound children’s novels of all time but deserves to be reread long into our adult years.

There is a wealth of social commentary and lessons learned in its pages that are as relevant today as they were in the 1980s and will be for ages to come. Like a boiled-down, and far more interesting, Socrates, Juster teaches us to carefully consider what we say and question the things we are taught to believe.

We learn that “the way you see things depends a great deal on where you look at them from”, that “imaginary things are often easier to see than real ones”, and how “it’s not just learning things that’s important. It’s learning what to do with what you learn and learning why you learn things at all that matters.”

Clearly, I can’t put The Phantom Tollbooth into better words than Juster did – over the years, my copy has received various colored highlighters and underlining pens and I think that’s enough to show how enduring it is.

From Doctor Who fans to the rest of the world, The Phantom Tollbooth is worth the read.


Photo and synopsis from penguinrandomhouse.com

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