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Phantom Tollbooth

4.22  ·  Rating Details  ·  168,531 Ratings  ·  7,197 Reviews
A journey through a land where Milo learns the importance of words and numbers provides a cure for his boredom.
Paperback, Portals to Reading, 55 pages
Published 1997 by Perfection Learning (first published 1961)
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Popular Answered Questions

713alex Absolutely. I read this as a 3rd grader, and it was a tad bit scary, but that helps the plot a lot.
C. It depends on the edition, but Goodreads has that information in the book description.
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Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 3,000)
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Patrick
I just finished this book with my oldest boy. I've been reading a chapter or two out loud to him every night when we can manage it.

I never read The Phantom Tollbooth before, so it had no particular nostalgic appeal to me. But I'd heard about it, and it was in my house (somehow) so I decided to give it a try.

Here's the short version: Meh.

It's not awful. But it wasn't great, either.

Overall, I found reading it to be a bit of a slog. When thinking ahead to reading time at night, I want to be exci
...more
Lisa Vegan
Jul 03, 2016 Lisa Vegan rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: children's lit fans, people who love words
My mother got this for us when I was 8 and it was first published in 1961. I still own that original edtion and it is not in great shape due to multiple readings. This is as much an adult as a children's book. Although I loved the story right away, it was more meaningful as I got older and I understood all the plays on words and deeper messages. Still worth rereading every decade or so as an adult, and it remains one of my favorite books. It's a very witty book. I'm a sucker for maps, however ba ...more
Brian Yahn
Jun 30, 2016 Brian Yahn rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: favorites
The Phantom Tollbooth is--without doubt--the funnest book I've ever read. Not only did I love this book as a kid, but I love it even more the older I get.

It has enough of a save-the-princess plot to hold your attention, a cast of Pixar-like zany characters, and it's set in a world so riddled with puns it's unbelievably fun.

From the way the tollbooth mysteriously arrives, to the way it takes Milo to a strange new world, to the quest he ends up on to save the princesses Rhyme and Reason, to how he
...more
Marie Lu
Aug 19, 2012 Marie Lu rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I don't remember much about this book, except that I loved it to pieces, and that the subtraction stew always made me really hungry.
Shivani
Jul 30, 2007 Shivani rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Anyone who has a passion for words and wordplay will enjoy reading The Phantom Tollbooth. In this charming children's book, author Norton Juster takes us on an adventure with his main character Milo, a young boy who enters a chaotic place called the Kingdom of Wisdom and finds that to restore order in the kingdom, he must save the banished princesses Rhyme and Reason.

When the story begins, Milo gets home one afternoon expecting to go through the same humdrum after-school routine he always goes t
...more
Katie
Oct 06, 2007 Katie rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: children who like wordplay
I wasn't as impressed with this book as many of my friends. Perhaps that is because of my high expectations for the book or perhaps because of my preferences in writing style. So those who love this book can use one of those two reasons to blow off my review. However, the fact remains that I was not very interested from page to page, and if not for a commitment to a book group, I am afraid I would not have had any desire to finish it.

In style the book seems to be written for a particular age gro
...more
Mia (Parentheses Enthusiast)
I am a reader, and I measure my life in books, and the ones that I read in my very early years were probably the most formative. You can learn a lot about a person by what their childhood was like- whether they played outside all the time or preferred to stay indoors, whether they read or didn't, whether they drew or played sports or learned instruments and languages.

I, for one, loved words. I read many books with large words in them, and so I was always asking my mother what they meant, or look
...more
David
Sep 09, 2013 David rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Reading "grown-up" literature is excavating the human soul, the adult soul: a mangled mess of contradictions and self-deceptions, screwy motives and the odd self-adherent logic of artistic creation. But Literature (capital ell) is a pyrrhic battle between message and evasion: one must avoid moralizing outright, must avoid overt allegory, but must never be too subtle, too veiled, lest you be resigned to snobby undergrabs and many rubbish bins. The Phantom Tollbooth is a strange beast: decidedly a ...more
Peter
When he left the Navy, Norton Juster began writing a non-fiction book about urban planning. As an outlet from the grueling work, though, he spent his free time concocting the imaginative scenes that later became The Phantom Tollbooth. One publisher’s advance later, he gave up on the scholarly work and finished The Phantom Tollbooth instead. And we’re all better off for it.

Part Alice in Wonderland, part secular Pilgrim’s Progress, The Phantom Tollbooth takes ten year-old Milo on a journey out of
...more
Mariel
Nov 29, 2010 Mariel rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: mathletes
Recommended to Mariel by: puny punners
Norton Juster's The Phantom Tollbooth made me happy. I loved the puns and playfulness. Even a dumb kid like me could appreciate the cool jokes. It's the language of words and numbers in a place that you can actually reach. Not "Learning is fun!" propaganda but "Hurry up, slow poke!" adventure stories in the vein of all the best ones. It's good for you.

I loved that Milo wanted to be away when he was home and away when he was home. No phantom tollbooth ever appeared to take me away (at least that
...more
Katie
Oct 25, 2013 Katie rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
"In this box are all the words I know," he said. "Most of them you will never need, some you will use constantly, but with them you ask all the questions which have never been answered and answer all the questions which have never been asked. All the great books of the past and all the ones yet to come are made with these words. With them there is no obstacle you cannot overcome. All you must learn to do is use them well and in the right places."

"And remember also," added the Princess of Sweet R
...more
Book Concierge
Illustrations by Jules Feiffer

From the book jacket - Through the Phantom Tollbooth lies a strange land and a series of even stranger adventures in which Milo meets some of the most logically illogical characters ever met on this side or that side of reality, including King Azaz the Unabridged, unhappy ruler of Dictionopolis; the Mathemagician; Faintly Macabre, the not-so-wicked Which; and the watchdog Tock, who ticks.

My Reactions
I’ve been hearing about this book forever, but never read it befor
...more
Drew
Feb 19, 2012 Drew rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I've always read ravenously, but when I was younger, I didn't really understand the idea of going out and trying to find good books to read. Instead, I'd read the handful of books I had over and over again. Not that I only had a handful. At the head of my bed, there was a compartment maybe two feet wide, one foot deep, and one and a half tall, which was always full of books.* I'd stuff it so tight some of the books would come out warped, and I vaguely remember once having trouble getting any of ...more
rebecca
Nov 02, 2007 rebecca rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: hmmm...
Shelves: readandloved
oh man. it's like amelia badelia for halfway-grownups.

here's what i think of when i think of the phantom tollbooth:

-people trying (and failing) to feed themselves with five-foot long spoons
-people having to (but not wanting to) eat their words
-semi-philosophical ideas about time and being and the way people treat themselves and each other*


what a doozy of a book! is it enough to say that i la-la-love it? no? okay, well let me add this: i think you should read it. really.

and yes, i do mean YOU sp
...more
Terence
Jun 05, 2011 Terence rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Anyone
Michael Chabon has written an introduction to a new edition of The Phantom Tollbooth, which is reprinted in the latest issue of the New York Review of Books (June 2011 - you'll need a subscription to read the whole thing), and which prompted a reread.

I will uncritically and unreservedly recommend this book to everyone. It's been my experience that while no singular author or book has ever consciously "blown my mind," many have done so unconsciously, including this one. How can you not love a wor
...more
Harriett
Mar 25, 2009 Harriett rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
After the first 50 pages I know this will be on my bedside table for the rest of my life!
Malbadeen
Feb 19, 2010 Malbadeen rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Students of Fencing
I was really looking forward to finding out what all the hub-bub about this book was, sadly at the end of the day I mostly just found it "too clever" and didactic. Think Alice in Wonderland marries The Littlest Prince.

This seems like the kind of book that snooty parents would want their kids to read on the way to fencing lessons while chomping on their organic granola. Always hoping that their ever blossoming renaissance child will wow a crowd of adults with their clever anecdotes and mature vo
...more
Christy Stewart
I think this is the only school book I liked.

Puberty had just taken effect and so I was tripping my balls off on hormones: "My boobs hurt. There is blood on my panties. I hate everyone. Does that dog have a clock on it?"
Kelly H. (Maybedog)
Kind of a cross between Lewis Carroll and Terry Pratchett, this amusing child's fantasy is based on puns and figures of speech taken literally. The story is simplistic enough to amuse children but most of the humor would go right over most children's heads. It's fun for adults, too, as I've learned by re-reading it now. It's a true classic as it's just as entertaining and apt now as when it was written nearly 50 years ago.
Heather
Jan 08, 2009 Heather rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Not only do I love this book, but I just finished reading it to my seven and five and ahalf year old, who now adore it as well. As a matter of fact, instead of beginning another "big kid" book tonight, as planned, they have requested that we start Tollbooth again, which is high praise from two little kids with rather short attention spans. We broke it up into litter sections, sometimes stopping in the middle of a chapter, and it helped to be able to say "Oh, guess what, Next, Milo gets to visit ...more
Kavita Ramesh
Nov 26, 2015 Kavita Ramesh rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Ah! One of my favorite children's books. (It is an entertaining read for children and adults alike.)

I think this book is the cat's pajamas, but when I recently tried to get my (bookworm) niece to read it, she read a few pages and then shoved it back at me saying, "No thanks Kavita Aunty, but I don't care for that sort of story." Now I see that it has mixed reactions on goodreads as well. I really don't get it! The amazing illustrations, the incredibly inventive plot, the lovely moral at the cent
...more
Alex
Aug 30, 2014 Alex rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Norton Juster lived around the block from me when I was a kid. We all steered clear of his house because our parents told us he was a miserable bastard.

That's not true; when I asked my mom about it last year she was horrified. She said he was a really nice man and she has no idea where I got that terrible but clear memory.

Anyway, I read this like fifty times when I was a kid and is there a Calvino fan in the world who didn't start with this, the child's introduction to metafiction?
Kelsey Marie
*****Please read my full review at Darling & Co.*****

I read a lot of articles about books, because, well, you know, books. One of the articles I read earlier this year was 100 Books to Read Before You Die by New in Books. Every book on the list has in some way shaped literature and they are all, in some way, a classic. Seeing as this year one of my goals was to read more classics, I saved the article, added all of the books to a Goodreads shelf, and wrote them all down. After reading The Pha
...more
Ivan
Aug 16, 2014 Ivan rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: favorites
Someone in a review said “The Phantom Tollbooth” was their first favorite book. Oh, how I wish I could make that claim [mine was “The Story of Babar”].

I didn’t start “really” reading until I was late into my teens; and so, with a few exceptions like E. B. White and Beverly Cleary, I didn’t read children’s literature – nothing in the independent readers or young adult genres. A few months ago I resolved to remedy that sad fact by reading those books I skipped while growing up.

What a treasure I’
...more
Kathryn
My feelings about this book were all over the map as I read; sometimes, I found myself annoyed, sometimes I was giggling and completely delighted, sometimes I was bored, sometimes I marveled at Juster's genius. So, it's a very difficult book for me to assign a rating to as some parts I loved and some parts I didn't. Overall, though, I understand why this is such an enduring classic and I'm very glad I read it.

Even so, I'm not exactly sure who the audience for this book is meant to be; or maybe j
...more
sal
Sep 17, 2007 sal rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: young intellectuals, adults looking for an easy and clever read
I read THE PHANTOM TOLLBOOTH in the sixth grade in my English class, and I hated it. I remember thinking that it was the most ridiculous book I had ever read, and I felt that every moment of it was a waste of my time.

When I went to college, my math education professor kept using this book as an example of how to bring literature into our mathematics classroom. Since I remembered hating the book so much, I never took the time to re-read it.

For some reason, this summer, I picked it up. I don't kno
...more
Everett Hanson
Jan 18, 2013 Everett Hanson rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This is my favourite book that I have read so far. When I start reading, I just could not stop. One of my favourite parts is how creative the author is with the world Milo is in. My favourite character is Tock the watchdog; I like how he has a real clock mounted onto him. Another great thing about this book is that with a different type of world come perfect places to make hilarious jokes. For an example, the Mathmagician (the king of Digitopolis, the kingdom of numbers) got mad and started add ...more
Kaitlin
Aug 11, 2007 Kaitlin rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: people who love imagination and clever word play mixed with a love of learning
I've read this book many times, starting when I was about nine years old, and never have I been disappointed by it. It's a great story of a young boy, Milo, who just can't get excited about anything in life. One day, Milo embarks on an adventure by driving through a mysterious phantom toolboth that arrives for him through the mail. Through his journey, he learns the importance of thought and learning as he tries to rescue Princesses Rhyme and Reason and restore them to their throne (don't you lo ...more
Rajat Ubhaykar
Nov 14, 2012 Rajat Ubhaykar rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: favorites
After reading this book, I've decided that whosoever drilled it into our heads about puns being the basest form of humour can go screw himself. (no pun intended)
Lstirl
Dec 02, 2008 Lstirl rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
The Phantom Tollbooth by Norton Juster

Ages 8-12

A classic fantasy that will keep any child from becoming “lost in the doldrums.”

Young , ever- bored Milo, upon finding a child sized tollbooth in his room one day after school, sets out on a surreal adventure into another dimension. Full of puns and double speak, this journey into the imagination is both charming and entertaining. Along the way, he meets such interesting characters as the “Which,” Half-Boy, The Whether Man, and the Mathemagician. I
...more
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Norton Juster is an architect and planner, professor emeritus of design at Hampshire College, and the author of a number of highly acclaimed children's books, including The Dot and the Line, which was made into an Academy Award-winning animated film. He has collaborated with Sheldon Harnick on the libretto for an opera based on The Phantom Tollbooth. The musical adaptation, with a score by Arnold ...more
More about Norton Juster...

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