Monday, June 07, 2010

*Review* The Phantom Tollbooth by Norman Juster

The Phantom Tollbooth by Norman Juster is awesome! Somehow, growing up, I missed out on this smart, kooky, classic of kids literature.

I was the kind of kid that was always claiming to be “bored” just like Milo, our boy-hero in the book. One day Milo comes home to find a miniature toll booth in his room. For lack of anything better to do, he decides to play with the toll booth, only to be transported another world. The kingdom of Wisdom is where Milo ends up, a strange place filled with dangerously literalized language. He soon meets up with an ally in Tock, a dog with the body of an alarm clock.

Tock and Milo end up going on a quest to rescue the twin princesses Rhyme and Reason, who have been imprisoned in a castle in the air by their brothers, rival kings that can’t stop arguing whether words or numbers are better. Milo and Tock are chased by all sorts of terrifying demons that are actually just sloppy uses of language. Next time some one uses a threadbare excuse or a makes a gross exaggeration, I’m totally calling them out for being demons of ignorance. I’m hoping somehow that referencing a kids book at the same time as I criticize people’s use of language will make me seem less pedantic.

The language play in this book is so entertaining! Perhaps a bit too subtle for some younger readers, though it might inspire them to soak up learning the same way Milo’s adventures awaken him to the fascinating world of knowledge around him.

Such a great find! It’s inspired me to take a look at some other quirky classics of kids lit…

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