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The Phantom Tollbooth

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4.21  ·  Rating details ·  207,053 Ratings  ·  8,810 Reviews
Librarian's Note: For an alternate cover edition of the same ISBN, click here.

Hailed as “a classic. . . . humorous, full of warmth and real invention” (The New Yorker), 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
...more
Paperback, 256 pages
Published 1996 by Random House Bullseye Books (first published 1961)
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min1 My daughter who is a 3rd grader loved it. She loves wordplay so this one was perfect for her. I loved that the content was appropriate and the…moreMy daughter who is a 3rd grader loved it. She loves wordplay so this one was perfect for her. I loved that the content was appropriate and the language was challenging.(less)
C. It depends on the edition, but Goodreads has that information in the book description.
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Patrick
Oct 13, 2015 rated it liked it
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
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karen
Jul 29, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: mg-rereads-2017
JULY

as part of my personal reading challenges for 2017, once a month i will be revisiting a favorite book from when i was a little bitty karen and seeing if it holds up to my fond memories and determining if i can still enjoy it as an old and crotchety karen.

fingers crossed.

so: first things first. in answer to the question 'does this book hold up?' here’s what’s weird. i have no memory of reading this book as a kid. i know i read it - i remember all of jules feiffer’s illustrations and i have st
...more
Marie Lu
Apr 07, 2011 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.
Lisa Vegan
May 12, 2007 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
Ahmed  Ejaz
Jul 23, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2018, full-lengths
You can swim all day in the Sea of Knowledge and still come out completely dry.
After a long time, this is the first children book I've read. It's a good book. I read this book because of its amazing cover. And the fact that it's my cousin's course book. She lent it to me and I read it in three sittings. And loved it!

It's the story of a bored child, Milo who doesn't find anything interesting in the real world. One day he gets Phantom Tollbooth as present which allows him to go to the Land Bey
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Shivani
Jul 30, 2007 rated it it was amazing
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
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Lisa
"RESULTS ARE NOT GUARANTEED, BUT IF NOT PERFECTLY SATISFIED, YOUR WASTED TIME WILL BE REFUNDED."

That is the promise the boy Milo receives when he embarks on a hilarious adventure to rescue two princesses named Rhyme and Reason in a fantasy land beyond the Phantom Tollbooth, which he explores with a colourful bunch of characters. At the beginning of the story, Milo is a bored young man who does not care much for anything, and can't see any point in learning, discarding knowledge and understandin
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Calista
This was a joy to read again. It's amazing how much of this had faded from my memory since childhood.

Norton takes all these common phrases and ideas and puts them together in a way that makes them feel absurd. He remakes them. This is a great book for kids starting out their reading journey. It sparks the imagination about words. I loved the dictionopolis. That was amazing. Words are important and this book encourages a curiosity about language and words and how things can be used. It is a fun l
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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
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Brian Yahn
Aug 05, 2013 rated it it was amazing
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
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Katie
Sep 20, 2007 rated it it was ok
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
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David
May 08, 2012 rated it really liked it
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
emma
Is this the cleverest book of all time? I think this is the cleverest book of all time.

I so deeply enjoyed rereading this. When I was younger, I would only keep books that I would reread over and over - and I would pick up each one, seriously, an average of 4 to 6 times. I believe this absolute insanity is why I was unable to reread for the subsequent, like, 6 years. But now we're BACK. And it's been a mixed bag, but rereading this was just the greatest.

There were so many puns and allusions and
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Peter
Dec 21, 2009 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 28, 2007 rated it it was amazing
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
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Katie
Jul 06, 2009 rated it it was amazing
"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
Anuradha
Jan 31, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: children and adults who're even slightly children at heart
Recommended to Anuradha by: Mia (Parentheses Enthusiast)
I love (good) children's books, and this is definitely one of the best I've ever read. My only regret is that I didn't get to enjoy it as a child.

I recommend reading Mia's review, because it's a true work of art, and without it, I would have never learnt about this wonderful little book.

The Phantom Tollbooth is a delightful book full of wordplay, and what incredible wordplay at that! It is a children's book, which not just teaches about numbers and letters and words and responsibility, but I r
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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
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Wastrel
Apparently a classic in the US; I wanted to read it because I vaguely remembered snippets of it - I think I must have read it at a library or the like.

In the end, I could see why it might be loved by some children - those fascinated by language, in particular. And why, with its combination of whimsy and morality, it might be a subject of nostalgia among adults, even among those who may not have loved it as much as they remember in childhood.

Because I can also see why I didn't love it - why I va
...more
Jan-Maat
Well I've had this book up on my goodreads shelves for a long time but had no particular idea what to write about it save: Clever playful little book about a boy who drives through the phantom tollbooth of the title and winds up on a quest to rescue the Princesses Rhyme and Reason. Witty. Until this morning. First I read Lisa's review, then I went for a walk. Then a thought blown out of the bending branches of a tree fly via my ear directly into my mind, that it was curious that a freewheeling a ...more
Terence
Jun 05, 2008 rated it it was amazing
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
Feb 19, 2012 rated it really liked it
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
Sep 27, 2007 rated it liked it
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
Malbadeen
Feb 17, 2010 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
Tracey Dyck
Dec 21, 2017 rated it it was amazing
What a delightful little book! Every chapter held something new to chuckle at, wonder at, and take to heart.

With a dash of "Alice in Wonderland," a generous helping of childhood whimsy, and a refreshing dose of common sense, Milo's journey through the Kingdom of Wisdom left me much to ponder. This is definitely a book I'll read to my future kids one day!

And that ending! Perfect. Satisfying. It stirred up that sense of having an immeasurable world of wonder at your fingertips. It makes me want to
...more
Michael Finocchiaro
Jul 18, 2016 rated it it was amazing
This is such a wonderful book about Milo and the Watchdog and his incredible adventures through both language and mathematics. Full of inventive language and puns, it makes me sad that Norton Juster didn't write more children's books. This on is abfab and a must!
Harriett
Mar 23, 2009 rated it it was amazing
After the first 50 pages I know this will be on my bedside table for the rest of my life!
Katie  Hanna
Mar 10, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favorites
Okay, so . . . I'm just going to say this right off.

I LOVE THIS BOOK.

I can't promise that you'll love it, too. It's not one of those "classics" that practically everybody will love, or at least like--it's a strange, fanciful kind of tale, and I could definitely understand how many readers might find it confusing, disturbing, or just plain boring. But I read it when I was seven years old and absolutely adored it. And by that, I mean I loved it the way I haven't loved any other book before or si
...more
Alex
Oct 25, 2011 rated it it was amazing
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 an Italo Calvino fan in the world who didn't start with this, the child's introduction to metafiction?
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?"
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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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