The Phantom Tollbooth by Norton Juster *Review*

I have a love/hate relationship with rereading books from my childhood.  I say this because I love revisiting the books that totally swept me away and made an impression on me as a kid, but I hate that feeling of nostalgia.  I want to be a kid again where I can fully immerse myself in the world contained in the pages and visualize it so clearly only in the way the imagination of child can do.  Being older I still visualize the worlds and I still enjoy the journey but its always that tiny bit different.  No matter my desires to be a kid again this book is just as amazing as I remember it, if not filled with many more lessons that I didn’t really understand as a kid but that are still as applicable to me today as they were in second grade.  Like enjoying the beauty in the world around us, opening our eyes to more than whats right in front of us, listening to the world and seeing the color in the sounds.  Understanding words and how to use them, and the power of numbers, and the great trouble of anger and malice and know it alls and assumptions.  From visiting Expectations to the foothills of Confusion and swimming from the island of Conclusions and listening through the Valley of Sound and so many more amazing places, this book kept me laughing and learning every step of the way.

“‘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.'”

Goodreads synopsis     

Hailed as “a classic. . . . humorous, full of warmth and real invention” (The New Yorker), this beloved story–first published more than fifty 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 room, he drives through only because he’s got nothing better to do. But on the other side, things seem different. Milo visits the Island of Conclusions (you get there by jumping), learns about time from a ticking watchdog named Tock, and even embarks on a quest to rescue Rhyme and Reason! Somewhere along the way, Milo realizes something astonishing. Life is far from dull. In fact, it’s exciting beyond his wildest dreams. . . .

My Experience

A good book has good characters, in my opinion, and every single character in this book is amazing.  Even the ones that are meant to be “bad” are so clever and insightful that I loved them all.  Whether it was the lovable but self centered humbug, the brave watch dog who ticked but was named Tock, the main character Milo who had a lot of learning to do, the crazy Dr. Dischord and the Dynne, Alec Bings who I do hope has fully grown down to the ground, and Chroma who plays beautiful music to make color come alive.   The list is endless of all the amazing characters that you meet along Milo’s journey through the Lands Beyond and each one is just as amazing as the last.  The characters of course all resemble some aspect of life and make you as the reader appreciate, learn, and understand these parts of life in a new way.  They also make Milo, a boy who was perpetually bored and unhappy, learn that life is amazing with far more possibilities than we often remember.

“‘Besides being lost is never a matter of not knowing where you are; it’s a matter of not knowing where you aren’t-and I don’t care at all about where I’m not'”

For a children’s book, I think that it is magical and creative enough that it immerses kids and teach them lessons, ones that are easy for kids to grasp, and takes them on a really fun journey.  This book is also one of those rare children’s books that will always be appropriate for adults too.  I think as kids we appreciate the world a bit more, we see more and listen more and take in more.  But as we get older we lose appreciation, we see less of the beauties around us and get consumed with what makes our personal lives go round.  We often waste time, which the watch dog would hate, we stop listening, which the sound keeper would be disappointed in, we forget the importance of words, which would infuriate the king of Dictionopolis.  We find ourselves more among the mountains of Ignorance with the demons such as, know it alls and gross exaggerations, of compromise that never ends in us really doing what we want, and insincerity.  We often jump to conclusions and sit in doldrums and make assumptions.  This book reminds kids and adults that there is more to life than these things and its all in how you look at it and appreciate it.  I feel like this is the kind of book everyone should read but especially those who find themselves down, sad, bored, or unhappy.  It reminds us of the good in life and brings new color into the world.  After I put this book down I thought of all different possibilities and took in the beautiful things around me that I often ignore and I wasted no time in writing this review and using all the words I could!  I love that this book made me smile 🙂

“‘You’ll find, that the only thing you can do easily is be wrong, and that’s hardly worth the effort.'”    


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