The Phantom Tollbooth
Written by Norton Juster
Reviewed by Bobby H. (age 8), Andy B. (age 9)
Milo thinks everything is a bore. When he is in school he longs to be out, but when he is out, he longs to be in. One day a mysterious tollbooth appears in his room. Since he had nothing better to do, he looked at the map which came with the tollbooth, and drove through. He was soon on the road to a small town called Expectations. He meets a queer fellow. Milo had no idea the weird people he was soon going to meet.
After he left he was not thinking (as usual) and ended up in the land of The Doldrums. In The Doldrums you can't think or laugh or do anything. There he meets a watchdog named Tock. Tock takes Milo out of The Doldrums and they are soon in Dictionopolis. When they are in Dictionopolis, Milo and Tock are placed into the dungeon for "messing up words." There was some confusion because they were accused falsely. Short Shrift, the police officer, likes to put people in jail for a long time without a reason.
In the dungeon Milo meets the Which, Aunt Faintly. She talks about how Princesses Rhyme and Reason were banished. Soon Milo is requested to find the two Princesses. In Dictionopolis he meets King Azaz. King Azaz is the King of Dictionopolis. Milo looks at the marketplace where people sell words and goes to a banquet where people eat their words. On the way Milo passes through the Valley of Sound, the Forest of Sight, and goes to Conclusions. He gets there by jumping!
Milo and Tock soon go to the number mine in Digitopolis and meet The Mathemagician. The Mathemagician hates King Azaz and King Azaz hates The Mathemagician. They never agree on anything. The Mathemagician thinks numbers are the best and words are the worst. Milo asks the Mathemagician what the staff he holds does. The staff is really a huge pencil. The Mathemagician gives an example by doing a math problem on the wall.
When Milo leaves for the Mountains of Ignorance, The Mathemagician gives Milo a smaller staff. They soon meet The Demon of Time. He keeps them doing unimportant work for 837 years. The demons know where Milo is and they'll do anything to capture him. Milo never turns back because right behind him are the most deadliest things of his life.
On the way Milo learns something astonishing. Life is far from dull. In fact it is "Past his wildest dreams." Read this book to find out what happens to Milo.
We think the moral of this story is even though you think everything is boring, you can always open your mind to the world. Milo always walked with his head down and didn't notice all of the great experiences he could have had. But the Tollbooth inspired him to look on the other side of things.
We loved this book because of Norton Juster's creative writing style and sense of humor. For example, "Wait!" Shouted Milo who'd thought of many more questions he wanted to ask. "Thirty-four pounds," shrieked the bird as he disappeared into the fog. Our favorite part was when Milo jumps to conclusions and The Humbug tries to jump back, literally, and landed two feet away. The humbug was one of the funniest characters in the book!
I (Andy) noticed there were a lot of odd fellows. The illustrations are sketches and they clearly explained what was happening in the story. I liked the details that Norton Juster uses like, "The sun sparkled, the sky was clear, and all the colors he saw seemed to be richer and brighter than he could ever remember." I (Andy) also liked the way Norton Juster describes Rhyme and Reason. It was exquisite.
I (Bobby) also liked the author's descriptive writing style. The very first sentence hooked me into the book and made me want to read on. As I read, each chapter of the book became more and more exciting.
We recommend The Phantom Tollbooth to readers who like fantasy, adventure and comedy. The comedy reminds us of the Louis Sacher books like: Dogs Don't Tell Jokes, Someday Angeline, Holes, and The Boy Who Lost His Face. This book will keep you thinking throughout every page. It will stretch your imagination because it will inspire you to look at things like you never have before.
If you like the way Roald Dahl writes, then you will like Norton Juster's writing style.
Really strong third grade readers and up to adults will enjoy this book. I'm sure you will agree that The Phantom Tollbooth is extraordinary!