The Phantom Tollbooth

by Norton Juster

Hardcover, 1996



Local notes

Fic Jus





Random House (1996), Hardcover


A journey through a land where Milo learns the importance of words and numbers provides a cure for his boredom.


Original publication date


Physical description

9.1 inches

User reviews

LibraryThing member sriffaud
This book is a very imaginative and creative book. I found it so interesting and different form any other book I have ever read. The entire plot comes off like a really good dream I had in my early childhood. It brought me back to those carefree days when I didn't have all of the stress that i do
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today. This book was like my own personal time machine. I really enjoyed this book, it was a blast from the past that hepled me to realize many things about myself on a personal level.
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LibraryThing member ScoLgo
Simply delightful from cover to cover. I love puns and there are some great ones in this book. It is also a wonderful vocabulary builder for children of all ages. Fun characters on high adventure makes for an educational journey that avoids becoming preachy. Targeted toward children but this is a
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great book for anyone that loves reading.
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LibraryThing member goose114
This is the story of Milo, who is bored by everything, but when he suddenly receives a mysterious tollbooth he is transported to another world that will both excite and challenge him. A childhood favorite that I decided to re-read. It is a wonderful book for children and adults alike. You will be
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taken to a magical land that will make you think and laugh.
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LibraryThing member sapphy
A punny story I utterly enjoyed.
LibraryThing member UberButter
The Phantom Tollbooth by Norton Juster
256 pages


Oh what a fun and delightful book! It makes me so sad that it took me so long to get to this one (I was not a reader as a child for the most part). In fact, when my non-reading husband found out I was reading this children’s classic
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– he ran and dug through a box until he found his old copy from 35 years ago…and asked me to read it aloud to him and my son. Like, how cute is that? Can’t wait to read The Phantom Tollbooth once again when Paul is old enough to actually understand it.

Since it’s a children’s book, there is not big build up, it just jumps right into the fantastical story. And oh, the word play throughout is just so fun. I enjoyed the characters and the illustrations helped the story along nicely. Has great lessons and moral not just for children, but I think of people of all ages. If you missed this one, take the time to sit down and read it! It’s short, a quick read, and worth the read through!
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LibraryThing member AuntieClio
What's not to love about a book illustrated by Jules Feiffer? Furthermore, I imagine that those few who are not charmed by Juster Norton's adventure tale about Milo and his Phantom Tollbooth to be Humbugs.

Yes, it holds up well on second readings over many, many years. And I'm sure that it will hold
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up well on subsequent readings. After all, Milo's journey from bored schoolboy to enlightened youth who now finds joy in all around him is not to be taking lightly. Don't we all wish we had a phantom tollbooth to take us on adventures which hinge on our critical thinking and rescuing two princesses who return joy to the kingdom? Well, maybe not everyone, but I do.
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LibraryThing member AbigailAdams26
A dazzlingly clever children's fantasy that has, since I first read it at the age of ten, been one of my very favorite books, The Phantom Tollbooth appeals both to my heart, with its story of an apathetic young boy who learns to care, and to my head, with its plentiful wordplay and prickly-penned
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insight into the human condition. It follows the adventures of Milo, a disinterested and fairly oblivious young boy, who comes home one day to find a mysterious brown-paper-wrapped package in his room, with a "toy" tollbooth inside. Since he has nothing better to do, Milo sets up the tollbooth, drives through it in his toy car, and (surprise!) finds himself in the Lands Beyond.

Here, in the Kingdom of Wisdom, he gains two boon companions, in the form of Tock, the ticking watchdog of time, and the Humbug, perpetually and optimistically wrong about almost everything; stumbles across one extraordinary place after another - the Doldrums, reached by turning the (suspiciously) wrong way, and populated by listless Lethargarians; the Island of Conclusions, to which one jumps when thinking something without good reason, and from which one must swim - and finds himself (naturally) dispatched on an epic quest. For the kingdom, torn between the opposing forces of Dictionopolis and Digitopolis, is very much in need of its missing princesses, Sweet Rhyme and Pure Reason, banished to a Castle in the Air...

A book that can be read on so many different levels - as a straight adventure story, involving a quest to find the lost princesses; as an allegory about the pleasures of learning and the importance of knowledge and wisdom; as an extended and playful look at the ever-shifting nature of words, and how we use them - The Phantom Tollbooth pairs Norton Juster's clever wordsmithing and cartoonist Jules Feiffer's brilliant illustrations to wonderful effect. One falls into the story, much as Milo does, and is alternately befuddled and amused, as every assumption is challenged and every expectation exceeded. High points for me, in the story: the tasty letters in the marketplace of Dictionopolis, with the icy and refreshing Is, and crisp, crunchy Cs (I have always wanted to try an A!); Milo's attempt to conduct Chroma's color orchestra, and the lost week that so few people even know occurred (I have always wanted to try my hand at conducting the dawn!); the Island of Conclusions (now here is a place I have been many times!); that sinisterly blank demon, the Terrible Trivium (I rather suspect that I have a weakness for his sort of distraction); and Milo's fabulously satisfactory discussion with Rhyme and Reason, about how important it is, not just to learn things, but to learn what to do with what one learns (there's a lesson for us all!).

I can't honestly say that this is "a book for everyone," as a I rather suspect that it has to come along at the right time. At that moment when the reader is wondering what the point of it all - whether "all" means one's studies, one's work, or something else altogether - might be. For those lucky enough to encounter this book, at that moment, a lasting enchantment is cast. This book is magic! But like all magic, it doesn't work for everyone. I'm just profoundly grateful it works for me...
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LibraryThing member benfulton
An absolute classic, not to be missed. I am privileged to have gotten to reread this book with my 7-year-old, and I'm sure I grokked a lot more than I did the last time I read it. The author brilliantly anthropomorphizes most of the components of the intellectual life, works in some quirky puns and
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lively, amazingly clever writing, and comes up with a quest adventure that is a true tour de force. Am I gushing? Probably. But it's that good.
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LibraryThing member laf
It was a really good book. I was so engrossed in reading it that I read it in one long morning. I recommend it for all ages. It's about a kid named Milo who gets sent a tollbooth that leads to another world. The main characters' names are Tock, Milo, and Humbug. The whole book is basically a pun on
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At one point in the book, when Milo has just gone through the tollbooth, he met this man called "the whether man." Milo asked him whether it was going to be sunny or rainy. The Whether Man answered, "How should I know?" Then, Milo said, "Well, you're the weather man." "I'm not the Weather Man, I'm the Whether Man. Don't you think it's a lot more important to know whether there is weather, rather than what kind of weather it is?"

Then, Milo asked him, "Is this the right road to Dictionapolis?" The Whether Man said, "I don't know if there are any wrong ways to Dictionopolis. If it's not the right road to Dictionapolis, then it's the right road to somewhere else."

I love this book because the verbal puns made me laugh.
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LibraryThing member WorldLit
An absolutely brilliant book. I'm ashamed to admit that I didn't discover this classic until the past few years. I have already shared it with my 9 year old son, who loves it. A great adventure story with some very clever puns and a great message about being positive. Highly recommended.
LibraryThing member mmsharp
I love this book! I can't believe I never read it as a child. What a great story about Rhyme and Reason and to let children know why learning is so important in life. I can imagine if I had read it when I was younger and compared reading it then to now what I would have caught that I may have
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missed years ago. This is a must for my kids, when I have kids :)
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LibraryThing member TeacherLisa
The things that stand out most to me about this book is that it was random and weird. You never knew what to expect in this book, there was always something unexpected around the corner.
LibraryThing member davidpwhelan
An all-time favorite that I read myself and have read to all of our children. Book is funny as well as instructive, and accessible at many different age levels. When reading it to a 5 year old and 10 year old, the three of us each got different bits of the humor and story.
LibraryThing member TakeItOrLeaveIt
an all-time classic as far as children's literature of living a just life goes. Many people choose to ignore the morals they were taught as a youth, or at least misinterpret them. but sometimes they are most effective in stories, as a philosopher like Seneca taught us. Norton Juster creates his own
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little utopia/dystopia here and gives Milo a ride for his tollbooth money. Excellence.
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LibraryThing member heaward
I just read The Phantom Tollbooth for the first time--so clever, so wise. I loved it! For some reason, I remembered the cover--maybe from having reshelved it many times at the library?--but had never read it. I'm not sure why because it would have been right up my alley.

Milo goes on a quest to a
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world of words and numbers, via the Phantom Tollbooth, where he seeks to rescue the princesses Rhyme and Reason. Along the way he acquires loyal companions and a positive and wise outlook on life. I highly recommend it for all ages!
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LibraryThing member neverlistless
This is the story of Milo, a boy that is always bored. One day he finds a tollbooth in his bedroom that takes him to a parallel land. There, he meets a watchdog named Tock and a Humbug that become his partner for his search for Rhyme & Reason. This fun book is a wonderful play on words, pun-filled
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(dare I say?) masterpiece for kids that seems intent on showing them how fun it is to read.
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LibraryThing member the_terrible_trivium
I stole my librarything name from this book. It's great. Read it. You'll love it.
LibraryThing member Lisa2013
recommended for: children's lit fans, people who love words

My mother got this for us when I was 8 and it was first published in 1961. I still own that original edtion and it is not in great shape due to multiple readings. This is as much an adult as a children's book. Although I loved the story
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right away, it was more meaningful as I got older and I understood all the plays on words and deeper messages. Still worth rereading every decade or so as an adult, and it remains one of my favorite books. It's a very witty book. I'm a sucker for maps, however basic, and there is a map (of the pretend world written about) in the inside covers of the book. A very good fantasy with a very real heart.
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LibraryThing member sgerbic
Reviewed May 2000

Caspian highly recommended, so I needed to read and discuss with him. I found it a lot like "Alice in Wonderland" but with male characters. I found the dialog between the characters and the puns with common phrases wonderful. Jumping to conclusions, "would you like a long or short
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sentence" says the judge. "A short one" says Milo's "How about, I am?" and "is it six million years already?" How about this King Azaz the unabridged? The man in the woodcutters forest, the tallest midget ever..."in fact I am quite ordinary...and no one asks their opinion about anything." The characters are so interesting, "I am the Terrible Trivium, demon of pretty tasks and worthless jobs." The sad people with no sound live in the "Valley of Sound", Chroma the Great who makes colors, the Soundkeeper who catches all sounds and stores them many more to mention. This book is so rich with fun words, phrases and characters. Milo, Tock and Humbug can ride through here anytime. Someday maybe I will come home and find a Tollbooth in the living room.

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LibraryThing member smilz23
Milo is transported through a tollbooth into another world. Words and numbers fight for importance, Sound is kept by a soundkeeper, and Milo ends up in the doldrums because he was nto thinking. He ends up on the island of Conclusions (by jumping), and must restore peace in the kingdom of Wisdom by
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rescuing Ryme and Reason.

A fantastical story with a variety of characters. I enjoyed how Juster played with the language and made ordinary words seem extrodinary. As a teaching tool for middle school, I think it would be a difficult book for students to read on their own but a great book to do in a Language arts class or with Literature circles where students could discuss the event and characters.
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LibraryThing member esthella
I remember reading this book in grade school and enjoying it. I picked it up recently at a library used book sale, but read it again after seeing part of the movie (which didn't interest me enough to watch the whole thing, but made me want to read the book again.)
LibraryThing member NarratorLady
On the one hand, I can't imagine why I never knew about this book when I was a young reader. (When it was published I was deep in my Nancy Drew phase; also I went to Catholic schools and Lives of the Saints were often foisted upon me.) On the other hand, I'm glad that I read it as an adult because
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I'm sure that much of it would have gone over my head despite my love of language.

This is the whimsical tale of Milo, a boy who has everything and is interested in nothing. A toy tollbooth mysteriously appears in his room and he gets in his electric car, pays his toll, and embarks on a trip to Dictionopolis. There he meets all kinds of characters who introduce him to letters, sounds, words and sayings that are taken literally to great comic effect. My favorite is when Milo innocently states "It couldn't be a nicer day" and is immediately transported to an ugly island called "Conclusions". When he asks how he got there, he's told by a local: "You jumped, of course. Every time you decide something without having a good reason, you jump to Conclusions."

All is not well in this land because the kings have banished their sisters, Rhyme and Reason, resulting in chaos and unhappiness. Milo and his friends go in search of the two sisters.

I think that this book is best read to children in small doses. Each concept is fairly adult and the whimsy might escape younger readers but grown-ups and sophisticated kids will chuckle over the clever wordplay. After his fantastical trip, Milo longs for more but when the tollbooth disappears, he learns to appreciate the world around him. A lovely lesson for us all.

Note: I was reading this book at the beach when a couple of young mothers and their children put down their towels beside me. One mom was telling the other a long story and she seemed to have no notion that the word "said" had ever been invented. Example: "So I was like 'Are you kidding?'. And she goes, 'No, it really happened!'" The words "like" and "go" were repeated over and over in this way. I felt like dropping this book on her lap on the way back to my car. But I'm not a crotchety old crone. Yet.
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LibraryThing member MarissaFay
Where do I even begin?! I read The Phantom Tollbooth in grade school, and ever since then, I always recommend it to every child and adult I meet. However, I couldn't remember what it was that I loved so much about the book, only that it was amazing. I decided to read it again as my "classic", since
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it is a new classic, and I am so happy that I did. It is so sharp, witty, and hilarious, and it is full of wonderful anecdotes about life and learning. I found myself laughing out loud in some parts, and reaching for my pen to write down quotes in others. I want to use quotes from this book in my classroom someday!
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LibraryThing member Meg_Harrison
Not at ALL what I expected, the Phantom Tollbooth is satire for the youngest reader (probably 6th grade or older). This isn't a straight-forward adventure story, or a fantasy, or anything else that will sound familiar! It's a punsters circus world of fun gone mad! Just trying to keep up with all of
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the witticisms and quips is like being on a loop-de-loop, but the message of complacency and make-your-own-joy will go a long way with those who stick with this book. This would be a great book for kids who like to play with words and are starting to understand idioms and multiple uses for words.
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LibraryThing member Figgles
This book is a delight in every way and I am embarrassed that I've only just read it for the first time! (It was published the year I was born). Charming story, with a gentle message and lovely characters. Make sure you get an edition with the Feiffer illustrations too! I want a dog named Tock!
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Read it if you haven't and read it again if you have! Thanks to twitter for putting me on to this one!
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