The Phantom Tollbooth by Norton Juster
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 had read this book as a child, and remember loving it, but a second time through as an adult, I had a whole new appreciation for the cleverness and wit of the language play. The characters are original, and Milo, as a protagonist is oddly appealing.
A true classic in the children’s fantasy genre, this book holds broad appeal, much in the way of Roald Dahl. The imaginative dialogue and inventive descriptions bring the story to life and make me wish there were a sequel. Silliness, humor and delightful nonsense fill each chapter, but there remains an undertone of seriousness as we realize there is more going in this story than what meets the eye. A treat for the imagination.
From the Publisher
Illustrated in black-and-white. This ingenious fantasy centers around Milo, a bored ten-year-old who comes home to find a large toy tollbooth sitting in his room. Joining forces with a watchdog named Tock, Milo drives through the tollbooth's gates and begins a memorable journey. He meets such characters as the foolish, yet lovable Humbug, the Mathemagician, and the not-so-wicked "Which," Faintly Macabre, who gives Milo the "impossible" mission of returning two princesses to the Kingdom of Wisdom.
This is more a description than a review.
Hero Milo "didn't know what to do with himself-not just sometimes, but always." One day he returns from school to find an easy to assemble tollbooth and when he drives through it, Milo finds wild adventures in Dictionopolis, the land of words; Digitopolis, the world of numbers, and many locations in between. He is on a quest in this nonsensical land to bring back the Princess of Sweet Rhyme and Pure Reason. The book is filled with wild characters like the Spelling Bee who spells more than he speaks. There are silly word plays like the time Milo makes a speech at dinner and is surprised to find out how he has to eat his words. Life philosophy is mixed with tons of punny, funny humor. He is so changed by his travels that when he returns home he is only momentarily disappointed when the tollbooth disappears. As Milo says, "there's just so much to do right here." A children's classic for parent and child to enjoy together.
Yes, this book does teach a lesson on how to cure the doldrums. I like the description here, but it barely touches on the books magical quality.