Wednesday, April 10, 2013

My Favorite Books: The Phantom Tollbooth

This week's book is another one that wound up surprising me when I was young. I don't remember exactly how I was introduced to The Phantom Tollbooth by Norton Juster, just that I was home from school sick when I first read it. My mom probably got it from the library to keep me from watching TV. You see, when I was a kid, if anyone was home sick, my mom would put the portable black and white TV with the rabbit ears in their room so they could watch TV in bed (if you're wondering what rabbit ears are, forget about it--you wouldn't believe it if I told you, and yes until I was about 15 all the TV's--both of them--in our house were black and white).

Anyway, perhaps one of my sisters was sick that day, too and they had the TV, but I started reading the book not really knowing what it was about. It started with a bored boy named Milo who receives a tollbooth. It comes with instructions. Milo having nothing better to do follows the instructions kind of halfheartedly, not really expecting anything.

He pedals his toy car to the tollbooth, pays the toll and pedals on through. When he does, he's
transported to another world. Hey, cool! Like Milo, I was suddenly intrigued. As you may know there's nothing I love more than a story about someone who is transported to a new world. From there, Milo is caught up in a quest to rescue the princesses Rhyme and Reason who were taken from the kingdom of Wisdom.

It was a great story, but the first time I read it I got only a fraction of the puns of the names and places in the book. As I got older, each time I read the book I recognized more and more. There was always something new to discover. That is truly the mark of a great book and the reason it's one of my favorites!

Here's a clip from Chuck Jones' movie version of The Phantom Tollbooth. Jones is best known for his Warner Brothers cartoons ad his version of How the Grinch Stole Christmas. In this bit, Milo loses his way in the Doldrums, which happens to all of us from time to time:

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