Tuesday, August 26, 2008

The Phantom Tollbooth

by Norton Juster
Listening Age: 6+
Reading Age: 10

"I loved it...and that's saying a lot [from me] for a "weird" book."
-Fifi, 13 years old, lover of Dickens

Children like weirdness. It's true.

That's why they read things like Charlie and the Chocolate Factory and Alice in Wonderland. But, truly? My girls say those books are actually creepy and bizarre, and I'm not sure they really enjoyed them at all.

This book, however, was weird in a most delightful way! It is certainly not poetic or classic, but I can't call it twaddle either.

Let's dub it a fun departure! A breather! What you read after you say, "...and now for something completely different."

The Phantom Tollbooth begins with a 10 year old boy who is bored. He is bored with his stuff, with his life, with his toys and with his schooling. He is just flat. out. bored. Oh yes! And he's an expert at killing time for no good reason.

One day, out of nowhere, a strange gift appears in his room--an empty miniature tollbooth--and little Milo is whisked away (reminiscent of Harold and the Purple Crayon) in his imagination to the far-away land of Wisdom. On his way, his first friend and traveling companion is Tock, the time-keeping dog clock. Together, the two embark on an adventure to the Kingdoms of Dictionopolis where words are grown, and Digitopolis where numbers are mined. By now, they have a mission too: to rescue and return the twin princesses, Rhyme and Reason from the dungeon to which they were banished when they couldn't conclude which kingdom was the more important.

Along the way, inattentiveness gets Milo caught in the Doldrums, assumptions leap him onto the Island of Conclusions (which is so very difficult to leave), and a variety of demons like the Everpresent Wordsnatcher, the Threadbare Excuse and the Gelatanous Giant try, unsuccessfully in the end, to detour and distract the the rescue party from their purpose.

Any child would love to hear this book read aloud rather than be lectured by Mom about any of the many well-intentioned character flaws and consequences--and benefits and pleasures of learning, too--addressed in the storyline.

But, it is weird.

I give this book a "B+," but the children would give it an "A," I'm sure.

1 comment:

Julianne said...

I love your book reviews! This is actually one of Robert's favorite children's books. He used to read it to his 3rd graders. I guess I'll have to give it a try if Fifi said it was good...for a weird book.:o)