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The Phantom Tollbooth (1961)

by Norton Juster

Other authors: Jules Feiffer (Illustrator)

Other authors: See the other authors section.

MembersReviewsPopularityAverage ratingConversations / Mentions
15,072402299 (4.3)2 / 430
A journey through a land where Milo learns the importance of words and numbers provides a cure for his boredom.
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    JanesList: If you liked the Phantom Tollbooth (which admittedly, I didn't like as much) you will probably also like this book. It has some of the same feel because it is also a journey to another (kindof random but with its own logic) world to learn things about yourself and your own world.… (more)
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1960s (49)

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Showing 1-5 of 398 (next | show all)
A much-loved book when read to us at school, wonderful to reread in one go 45 years later and find it holds up (not all kids' books do), especially the Jules Feiffer illustrations. Sadly the Essential Modern Classics edition has been Anglicised to the point of ruining one of the jokes. Milo says " That doesn't make any sense, you see—" and the Everpresent Wordsnatcher replies "Pounds or pence, it's still not yours to spend" (which of course should have been "dollars and cents", Heaven forfend that children be exposed to non-British money in their literature, they might be terribly confused.) Also awful "fun activities" added to the back, ugh. Will be looking for an old used copy to replace this one. ( )
  adzebill | Apr 28, 2022 |
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.

Oh how I wished I had read this book when I was younger! (perhaps not young you understand, just younger). What have I been missing? I heard about this book several times on book related podcasts, such as NPR and it was only whilst I was doing a trawl through the local children's department for Christmas presents that I saw the 50th anniversary edition out on a table. Well, the child I was buying for never got it (he'll live), and it was slipped onto my TBR shelf.

The Wikipedia page is here. I also found several reviews of the book (I wont talk about the film as I currently dont intend to see it), one from the UK in the form of The Guardian newspaper and one from Michael Chabon, writing in the New York Review of Books.

Essentially Milo starts the book as a child who does no independent thinking, dreaming, learning, abandons his toys almost immediately after getting them, and generally wastes his childhood doing not much. He returns home one day to find a gift in his bedroom. After building what turns out to be a toy tollbooth, he drives his little car through and into another world, called Wisdom.

The world is made up of several different cities - Dictionopolis (the city of words) and Digitopolis (the city of numbers), and things have never been right since the Princess Rhyme and Princess Reason were banished to the City in the Air. Milo, with Tock the (watch)dog, and Humbug, are sent to rescue the two Princesses and so travel across the land.

Along the way, the three of them encounter various different characters including: Faintly Macbre, the Not-So-Wicked Which. who regulated all words used in public, but became so stingy with them that people became afraid to talk at all; Dr. Kakofonous A. Dischord, a scientist who enjoys creating unpleasant sounds, and curing pleasant sounds; The Soundkeeper, who loves silence, rules the Valley of Sound - her vaults keep all the sounds ever made in history; Alec Bings, a boy of Milo's age and weight who sees through things - he grows downwards from a fixed point in the air until he reaches the ground, unlike Milo, who grows upwards from the ground.

The book is written in such a way that it can take a while to realise you're being taught a little truth (e.g. that if jump to Conclusions, it's not a pretty place and it's tiring work to get away from it). He rescues the Princesses - who were after all, simply McGuffins - and returns home. He is sad to see that the Tollbooth has disappeared - only to realise that he no longer needs it as he has so many new worlds to explore without it!

  nordie | Apr 18, 2022 |
I read this years ago, and didn't remember anything except the half half kid (as in 2.5 kids per family)

The story itself is about the importance of thinking. What makes sense, or doesn't make sense is useless if you don't the problem.

The warring kingdoms are Dictionopolis and Digitopolis are delightful absurd. Numbers vs Words. The illustrations are very nice as well, although at times, are a little too scribbly.

Of course, Miles saves the princesses of Rhyme and Reason, logic returns to the land, and Miles learns a lesson about being focused. ( )
  TheDivineOomba | Apr 5, 2022 |
Such a great book...even at age 40!!! ( )
  ShanLand | Feb 28, 2022 |
The Phantom Tollbooth is full of clever words, ideas, and a war of sorts between the lands of letters and numbers. There is also an older video of this book that may be familiar, although not as old as the book which was written in 1961. The book is not outdated, however. I suggest this as a read-aloud because of the text and vocabulary, and because it is a fun read. In Digitopolis (the land of numbers), subtraction stew makes you hungrier than you were before you began eating. Characters have names like Rhyme and Reason. In Dictionopolis you may have to eat your words, so watch what you say. Ordinary things become exciting when described in this book. One of the rules of being in The Doldrums is that you're only allowed to smile slightly every other Thursday. Milo, the main character, is bored during the beginning of the book and anything but by the end of the story. Phantom Tollbooth is entertaining, and would also be great for a gifted and talented book study. ( )
  WiseOwlFactory | Feb 20, 2022 |
Showing 1-5 of 398 (next | show all)

» Add other authors (4 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Juster, Nortonprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Feiffer, JulesIllustratorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Dietz, NormanNarratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Grant, MelCover artistsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Jones, Diana WynneIntroductionsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Pierce, David HydeNarratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Sendak, MauriceIntroductionsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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To Andy and Kenny,
who waited so patiently
First words
There was once a boy named Milo who didn't know what to do with himself—not just sometimes, but always.
"You must never feel badly about making mistakes," explained Reason quietly," as long as you take the trouble to learn from them. For you often learn more by being wrong for the right reasons than you do by being right for the wrong reasons."
Well, since you got here by not thinking, it seems reasonable to expect that, in order to get out, you must start thinking.
Last words
(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
Disambiguation notice
Please distinguish between this LT Work, Norton Juster's original The Phantom Tollbooth (1961), and the edition annotated by Leonard Marcus (2011). Thank you.
Publisher's editors
Original language
Canonical DDC/MDS
Canonical LCC

References to this work on external resources.

Wikipedia in English (2)

A journey through a land where Milo learns the importance of words and numbers provides a cure for his boredom.

No library descriptions found.

Book description
The Phantom Tollbooth tells the story of a bored young boy named Milo who unexpectedly receives a magic tollbooth one afternoon and, having nothing better to do, decides to drive through it in his toy car. The tollbooth transports him to a land called the Kingdom of Wisdom. There he acquires two faithful companions, has many adventures, and goes on a quest to rescue the princesses of the kingdom from the castle of air, Princess Rhyme and Princess Reason. The text is full of puns, and many events, such as Milo's jump to the Island of Conclusions, exemplify literal meanings of English language idioms.
Haiku summary
A quite boring boy,
goes on a great adventure,
and he is changed a lot.

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Average: (4.3)
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Hachette Book Group

2 editions of this book were published by Hachette Book Group.

Editions: 1587171090, 1587171082


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