I am continuing to read books from the The Top 100 Children’s Novels Poll (#1 – 100).
The Phantom Tollbooth by Norton Juster and illustrated by Jules Feiffer is a delightful story filled with wordplay. A boy named Milo, who walks gloomily through life without purpose or interest and who is convinced that everything is a waste of time, discovers a tollbooth in the middle of his room one day. Since he has nothing better to do, he decides to get into his electric toy car and drive through the tollbooth.
The adventure begins with such destinations as the land of Expectations, the Doldrums, Dictionopolis, Digitopolis, and the Mountains of Ignorance. He makes many interesting acquaintances along the way including a watchdog named Tock, the Rhyme and Reason sisters, the Mathemagician, and Dr. Dischord.
The adventure Milo has keeps the story interesting but the whimsical language that is used is why you should read it. It is hilarious. At the Word Market, in Dictionopolis, Milo and Tock meet the Duke of Definition, the Minister of Meaning, the Earl of Essence, the Count of Connotation, and the Undersecretary of Understanding. It is here that they are arrested and sentenced to six million years in jail for “…sowing confusion, upsetting the apple cart, wreaking havoc, and mincing words.”
While in jail they meet Faintly Macabre who tells them the tale of how princesses Rhyme and Reason kept order in the land by solving everyone’s problems for them. Things fell into chaos when the Mathemagician and his brother, Azaz, got into an argument and banished the sisters. It is at this point in the story when Milo and Tock set off to save them and restore peace.
The story is so original and filled with so many metaphors, old and young alike are bound to be equally entertained.