Written by Norton Juster and illustrated by Jules Feiffer, The Phantom Tollbooth is often regarded as a classic work of children’s fiction. I never read this book as a child, so when my friend (and roommate!) recommended it to me I had no idea what she was talking about. A phantom tollbooth who takes a boy on an adventure to magical faraway lands? A dog with a clock for a torso? What in the world is a “phantom tollbooth,” anyways? It sounded bizarre, but also like the kind of story that I would love. I decided to give it a try.
Needless to say, I now adore this book.
I can’t recommend this book enough to each and every one of you, no matter your age or usual preferred reading genre. If my simple declaration of adoration isn’t convincing enough for you, here are 8 Reasons Why You Should Read The Phantom Tollbooth.
1. It’s a timeless story.
This book was first published in 1961, which makes 2016 its 55th anniversary. The world was a different place back then, yet time has not changed the way it enchants and entertains readers of all ages. Age will never dull the power and greatness of this story, making The Phantom Tollbooth a true timeless work in my eyes. I look forward to celebrating this book for many years to come!
2. Wonderful characters.
The characters in this story are unique, memorable, and incredibly lovable. There’s Milo (the main protagonist), Tock (a literal watchdog), the Humbug (a grumpy guy with a hidden soft side), and so, so many more! Their names perfectly reflect their personalities and personas, helping the reader understand them from the moment they are introduced. I think Tock is my favorite character, because I share his desire to always know and be on time.
3. Clever, creative, and captivating.
This is one of the most clever stories I have ever read. From Juster’s ingenious use of language (more on that later!) to the creative characters and settings he creates, everything about The Phantom Tollbooth exudes imagination.
4. Use of Language.
I can’t even begin to describe how brilliantly Juster plays with language throughout this story. Every word has clearly been chosen with care: the names of characters and settings, the witty dialogue of King Azaz’s cabinet, and even narration itself. If you’re a word nerd like me, then I can guarantee that you’ll love this book!
5. Lovely illustrations.
Jules Feiffer’s illustrations perfectly capture the whimsical tone of this story. They offer enough detail to help the reader along, yet somehow still provide the opportunity for the reader’s own interpretation and visualization of what is going on. These illustrations are sometimes adorable, sometimes a bit bizarre, and always fun– what more could you want?
6. Brimming with lessons.
Somehow Juster has managed to pack countless life lessons into this lovely little book in a way that is always fun, entertaining, and never “preachy.” This story reminds us how to be kind, accepting of others, and go-getters in our own lives. Whether your nine or ninety-nine years old, those are certainly things that never hurt to be reminded of!
7. The ending.
Saying goodbye to this story was incredibly sad– I wanted it to go on forever! Fortunately, the ending was as charming and satisfying as the rest of the book. It’s clear that Milo has grown throughout the story, for the by end he is no longer the bored, lost, tired boy we met in the beginning. Milo comes to understand how exciting and fun life can be, even without the help of the phantom tollbooth.
8. That warm and fuzzy feeling.
If you ever need some cheering up or are feeling blue, then this is definitely the book to turn to! I practically smiled the entire time I was reading it, or at least that’s what it felt like. It’s such a “feel good” story that you can’t help but laugh, grin, and want to read it all over again.
I’m so glad my friend recommended The Phantom Tollbooth to me, and I truly hope that you will all go out and enjoy reading this wonderful book as well!
What are your thoughts on The Phantom Tollbooth? Have any bookish recommendations? Let me know in the comments section below!
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