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The Phantom Tollbooth (Essential Modern Classics)

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4.18  ·  Rating details ·  268,915 ratings  ·  11,735 reviews
In this classic children's tale, Milo sets off through the tollbooth he finds in his bedroom and away on a magical journey to such places as the Land of Expectation, the Mountains of Ignorance and the Castle in the Air. He meets the weirdest folk, such as the Threadbare Excuse, who mumbles the same thing over and over again. ...more
Paperback, 256 pages
Published 2008 by HarperCollins (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 languag…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)
Christen It depends on the edition, but Goodreads has that information in the book description.

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Average rating 4.18  · 
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 ·  268,915 ratings  ·  11,735 reviews


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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
karen
Jul 29, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
jessica
Jun 12, 2012 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
‘welcome to the island of conclusions!’
‘but how did we get here…?’ wondered milo.
‘you jumped, of course!’ explained canby.


i must have read this book for the first time when i was about 9 or 10 and i will forever attribute it to how my love of words, puns, and silly idioms began. its a major part of my sense of humour, one that started developing with this story. and the wordplay in this is even more enjoyable as an adult.

there are many reasons why reading childrens literature past childhood is
...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. ...more
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
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
...more
Mia
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
Shivani
Jul 30, 2007 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
Nenia ✨ I yeet my books back and forth ✨ Campbell

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I'm doing a project where I'm rereading some of my favorite books from adolescence and seeing how they hold up. Some of them are adult books and some of them are children's books. My most recent addition to the project is the delightful middle grade fantasy novel, THE PHANTOM TOLLBOOTH. Including this book on the list might actually be cheating because I read it for the first time elementary school (and also watched the movie, which is s
...more
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
...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
...more
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
...more
Brian Yahn
Aug 05, 2013 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
Katie
Sep 20, 2007 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
David
May 08, 2012 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
MissBecka Gee
I can see why this has been so popular for so many years.
Highly entertaining! I'm a little disappointed my first experience with this was as an adult.
I think with the whimsy of childhood this would have been even more magical.
...more
Gretchen Rubin
Towering classic of world literature. So wonderful. If you haven't read it since you were a child, re-read it. ...more
Diane
Dec 01, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: childrens
I saw "The Phantom Tollbooth" on a list of beloved children's books, and realized I had somehow missed it when I was a kid. I listened to the audio version, narrated by actor Rainn Wilson, and thought it was delightful. The book is filled with clever wordplay and has good advice on the importance of not jumping to conclusions and watching your words (otherwise you may have to eat them!) Highly recommended.

Favorite Quotes
"Everybody is so terribly sensitive about the things they know best."

"The mo
...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 28, 2007 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
Alex
Oct 25, 2011 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 an Italo Calvino fan in the world who didn't start with this, the child's introduction to metafiction?
...more
Jonathan
Mar 09, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Up there in the ranks of all time great kids books
J. Wootton
May 25, 2021 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: best-of
A true child of Lewis Carroll's Alice novels, with perhaps a bit of Bunyan ancestry as well. (Writing for The New Yorker, critic Emily Maxwell observed: "As Pilgrim’s Progress is concerned with the awakening of the sluggardly spirit, The Phantom Tollbooth is concerned with the awakening of the lazy mind.")

Adventures which rescue a child from boredom are a dime a dozen, but driving a story with astonishing wordplay and logical charm is really hard: almost nobody other than Juster and Carroll has
...more
Michael Finocchiaro
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! ...more
Katie
Jul 06, 2009 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
Aj the Ravenous Reader
Wise and philosophical as most children's/middle school books are. It talks about the meaning of life, words, rhyme, and reason. It also talks of the importance of time. The plot isn't all that adventurous though but the illustrations added appeal to the story while the word play is fun. ...more
Anu
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 Anu by: Mia
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
...more
Wastrel
Mar 01, 2016 rated it liked it
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
Gaijinmama
Jan 26, 2010 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fiction, favorites, kids
This is an all-time favorite of mine.
My fifth-grade teacher, Miss Shannon, read it to the class chapter by chapter, and I was so absorbed in the story I cajoled my grandma into buying me a copy so I wouldn't have to wait for the next day's reading time. I recently re-read it with my kids and they loved it, too. The humor (downright Monty Python-esque in places) and vocabulary was a bit over their heads, but they still got into it. Seriously, what's not to love about a talking dodecahedron?
Highly
...more
TS Chan
Dec 05, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Recommended to TS by: Celeste
The Phantom Tollbooth is an essential classic for children and adults alike. An immensely clever and fun read, which was filled with wordplay. The entire story was like a huge, well-written pun. I absolutely loved every second of it.

I would like to thank my lovely book-twin, Celeste for introducing and gifting me with this wonderful book.
...more
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Norton Juster was 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 collaborated with Sheldon Harnick on the libretto for an opera based on The Phantom Tollbooth. The musical adaptation, with a score by Arnold Bla ...more

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