Saturday, October 28, 2006

The Phantom Tollbooth

by Norton Juster

The Phantom Tollbooth is one of those books that I dimly recall from my childhood. All I could remember was the tollbooth, the protagonist's little electric car and the Dollllldrums. (It's spelled "Doldrums" but to pronounce it properly you have to draw out that first syllable.)(It also helps if you speak in a lower register.) I also remembered that I had kind of liked the book, so I was delighted when it showed up in my daughter's reading curriculum. When I finally cracked the volume, I first read the "appreciation" by Maurice Sendak. He truly does appreciate the book. Me, I was hoping that his assessment was accurate, but I didn't quite remember it as being that good. So anyway, I continued and discovered that the first chapters weren't quite in keeping with Mr. Sendak's essay. It told about Milo, a boy in New York City, who one day discovers that someone has given him a present. It's a little tollbooth, much like any other play structure that one can buy. Since it's a new toy and all, he eagerly assembles the booth and then drives through it in his little electric car. (Paying with the provided coins, of course.) He is suddenly transformed into a magical land, the Kingdom of Wisdom. From there he travels onward, visiting various prefectures of said kingdom, accumulating traveling companions and volunteering for a quest. Anyway, like I said, the book started kind of slowly. But things got better as the puns, excitement and morals began to build in intensity. While I never reached the level of Mr. Sendak's appreciation, I did enjoy the book quite well. It's definitely one to let your child check out... after you've had a chance to enjoy it yourself, of course.
LibraryThing link


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