The Phantom Tollbooth
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The Phantom Tollbooth

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4.21 of 5 stars 4.21  ·  rating details  ·  133,654 ratings  ·  5,764 reviews
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.
Paperback, 256 pages
Published 1996 by Random House Bullseye Books (first published 1961)
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Lisa Vegan
May 12, 2007 Lisa Vegan rated it 5 of 5 stars  ·  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
Shivani
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 2 of 5 stars
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
Peter
Dec 21, 2009 Peter added it
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 5 of 5 stars
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
David
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
rebecca
Nov 02, 2007 rebecca rated it 3 of 5 stars
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 5 of 5 stars
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
Drew
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
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 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.
Harriett
After the first 50 pages I know this will be on my bedside table for the rest of my life!
Katie
"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
Heather
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
Kaitlin
Aug 11, 2007 Kaitlin rated it 5 of 5 stars
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
sal
Sep 17, 2007 sal rated it 5 of 5 stars
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
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
Alex
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?
Rajat Ubhaykar
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)
Marie Lu
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.
Lstirl
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
Ben Siems
Having spent much of this winter in less than wonderful health, I have been happily accepting donations of reading material from friends. One friend, on a lark, dropped off her copy of this old classic, which I last read probably at age 13 or so.

In re-reading it, I was reminded of the ambivalence I had about it on my first read back then. The level of cleverness is indeed impressive, at times dazzling, and for certain there are some fantastically humorous moments. It is also nice to read a moral...more
Malbadeen
Feb 19, 2010 Malbadeen rated it 2 of 5 stars  ·  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
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
Lea
This is such a sweet book, but full of genuinely profound lessons. I read this on the recommendation of my 14 year old daughter who remembers it fondly from grade school. I thank her for the suggestion -- I loved the story of Milo & his friends Tock & the Humbug. I would recommend this for any child reading independently (younger readers may need some gentle guidance with some of the concepts & humor, which isn't dumbed down in the least), but also for any adult looking for a quick r...more
Ivan
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
Emily
This book is: Fantastic! Marvelous! Fabulous! Stupendous! Incredible! Thus would be the reaction of the cabinet of King Azaz the Unabridged of the Kingdom of Dictionopolis. In The Phantom Tollbooth, we find the meaning of such statements as “It goes without saying”, and “Half-baked ideas”. We learn what might be the best kind of sentence you can get from a police officer. We are taught the rules of The Doldrums: one being that you’re only allowed to smile slightly every other Thursday. And perha...more
Michael
I was a voracious reader as a child, but most of the books I read then were apparently forgettable, given that I have forgotten them. Not so, The Phantom Tollbooth, with its sharp humour and clever wordplay it stayed with me over the years.

I got a copy to read to my children (I know they enjoyed it, but probably not as much as I enjoyed reading it to them) and have re-read it to myself for the pure nostalgic pleasure of doing so.

A book that should enchant both young and old - there's no need to...more
Kim
My main problem with it is that part of the book deals with personal demons (like wasting time, having bad habits, etc.) which kept pulling me out of the story and making me think "I should be doing something productive instead of sitting here reading" which was a little annoying! Otherwise a sweet book - I'll have to go back and watch the movie from the beginning now...
Sean DeLauder
Main character Milo is an unfortunate child weighed down by the burden of a tedious existence, flitting reluctantly from one state of ennui to another, which says something about himself. To wit, in the words of Harvey Danger, "If you're bored, then you're boring." So it's unlikely he would have a safety net of friends who might help him out of this state, and parents seem largely absent.

Where a contemporary cure for the unfortunate Milo would probably involve expensive medication prescribed by...more
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What do you think about this book? 55 249 Aug 05, 2014 05:28AM  
ONTD Book Club: June - The Phantom Tollbooth 10 46 Jul 25, 2014 10:38PM  
OFHS Student Group: The Phantom Tollbooth 1 4 May 30, 2014 07:28AM  
Silver Stag Book ...: 24th March, 2014 #NatRTTPT 1 2 Mar 10, 2014 07:07AM  
it was funny 3 41 May 16, 2013 03:17PM  
this should be a coming of age present as every child turns 10 21 135 Jan 22, 2013 07:05PM  
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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
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