Wednesday, September 28, 2005

The Phantom Tollbooth - Norton Juster

I seem to be going through a phase of re-reading books/authors I read as a child that I haven't revisited in 25+ years... Last night I started reading Norton Juster's The Phantom Tollbooth and finished it on the bus home tonight - I first read it aged 9 or so and I'd forgotten just how much fun it is !! The blurb on the back of the book reads:

One genuine Turnpike Tollbooth. If not perfectly satisfied, your wasted time will be refunded.

Milo is bored. But all that changes when he receives a mysterious Tollbooth through the post. Having nothing better to do, Milo points his little car towards the strange land beyond the Tollbooth. And before he knows what he's doing, he's entered the Kingdom of Wisdom, where everything is unexpected...


(I love that offer to refund the user's wasted time !)

He visits the City of Dictionopolis (definitely my favourite place), the City of Digitopolis, presided over by the powerful Mathemagician, the Forest of Sight and the Valley of Sound, amongst other strange and magical places. He meets the Humbug and Tock the faithful watchdog, and before he really knows what he's doing, he volunteers to rescue the Princesses Rhyme and Reason from their prison in the Castle in the Air. To get there he must face the horrible Demons of Ignorance who guard the princesses: there's the Gelatinous Giant, and the Threadbare Excuse, the Gross Exaggeration, and the Gorgons of Hate and Malice, amongst many others.

In the process of his travels, Milo meets many strange people and learns many new things, the most important of which is the value of knowledge of all kinds. But he learns this without Juster being preachy in any way... I was pleased as punch to discover that one of my workmates loves this book too - she saw me reading it in my lunchbreak and got very excited when she spotted it (something that doesn't normally happen !). I've added it to my Amazon UK wishlist (which has grown enormously in the past couple of weeks !).

I was delighted to find that there is a Postscript from Norton Juster in the Collins Modern Classics edition of the book which I borrowed, in which he explains how the book came to be written. And when I looked up the book at Amazon just now, I found that I had forgotten that Juster had also written a book called The Dot and the Line: A Romance in Lower Mathemetics, which was made into an Oscar winning short film, which I remember seeing at some point long ago.

4 comments:

Kelly said...

"The Phantom Tollbooth" is a true classic and perhpas my all-time favorite as a child.

Michele said...

It's certainly one that I retained a strong affection for, even though I'd forgotten how much fun it was to read ! Since I'm revisiting my childhood reads, I shall have to dig The Borrowers, etc. out of the Library too, although I seem to recall re-reading them somewhat more recently...

Ann (from ChildLit) said...

I love "The Phantom Tollbooth" - it was one of my favourites as a child! Gkad that other people like it. I will always remember that staircase to infinity; the Dodecahedron; the Awful Dynne; Subtraction Stew; and so much else! One of the rather few children's books that takes it for granted that intellectual topics are fun, and neither avoids them nor preaches solemnly about them.

And yes, do dig out the Borrowers books - I also love them all, especially "The Borrowers" and "The Borrowers Afield".

Michele said...

I shall certainly need something fun to read as a counter-point to the seriously detailed research I shall be doing until Jan. 31st ! But I shall need to return some more books before I can get out the Mary Norton books since I've just borrowed a whole pile of Tolkien biographical books ! In the meantime I have Cornelia Funke's Dragon Rider which I also picked up today...