- Auxiliary Books
- The Trumpet of the Swan
- Trouble According to Humphrey
- The Indian in the Cupboard
- Because of Winn-Dixie
- The BFG
- Love That Dog
- Mrs. Frisby and the Rats of NIMH
- A Cricket in Times Square
- A Barrel of Laughs, A Vale of Tears
- Bud, Not Buddy
- The Miraculous Journey of Edward Tulane
- Island of Blue Dolphins
- In the Year of the Boar and Jackie Robinson
- The World According to Humphrey
- The Lion, The Witch, and the Wardrobe
- My Side of the Mountain
- The Lemonade War
- The Enormous Egg
- Hate That Cat
- A Long Way from Chicago
- The Mouse and the Motorcycle
- Mr. Popper’s Penguins
- The Phantom Tollbooth
- Charlotte’s Web
- The Witches
- James and the Giant Peach
The Phantom Tollbooth
Norton Juster’s The Phantom Tollbooth is perhaps the wittiest children’s book ever written. Juster’s classic is based on wordplay and puns – knowing jokes that disarm and continually surprise the reader with each new juxtaposition and disorientation. Juster defies expectations in the simplest, unexpected way – sending a lonely, bored boy named Milo into a fantastic world.
But Narnia it ain’t. Instead Milo must come to terms with Tock, the “time-keeping” dog that ticks; with the (naturally grumpy) Humbug; with the two (very different) kings of Dictionopolis and Digitopolis, respectively – and then Milo is finally entrusted with the rescue of the Princesses Sweet Rhyme and Pure Reason. It would give a way too much to describe the other characters he meets and lessons he learns.
Better to ask – how do you read a book like this to an entire elementary school population? And the answer is that The Phantom Tollbooth operates like a Pixar film: younger children needn’t get all the jokes to be enthralled. The story moves from chapter to chapter and new venue to new venue. In each chapter young children will meet strange silly characters who challenge Milo with their strange view of the world.
And with Jules Feiffer’s winsome drawings to lead the way – nearly all children will be beguiled and immersed in the world of The Phantom Tollbooth – and follow along with fascination and glee. And that is all to the good – because it will allow parents and teachers and students all to explore and revel in the lessons and wordplay within.
The Phantom Tollbooth is full of words. Not too many words – but many, many delights. As one king’s ministers say, “One word is as good as another – so why not use them all?”
In The Phantom Tollbooth – there is a Synonym Bug. What a way to celebrate and explore the Arts of Language – through a sly and winning novel!
But The Phantom Tollbooth is full of wisdom, too. One character “swims in the Sea of Knowledge – and comes up dry.” Wary of revealing too much – I entreat you to consider Norton Juster’s classic. See if you don’t wind up enthralling and inspiring a new generation of parents – along with their children.
Note: Check out the Sample Suggested Activities for a look at the ways you can explore and exploit the world of The Phantom Tollbooth at school and at home.