The Phantom Tollbooth – Norton Juster

Summary from Goodreads:

For Milo, everything’s a bore. When a tollbooth mysteriously appears in his room, he drives through only because he’s got nothing better to do. But on the other side, things seem different. Milo visits the Island of Conclusions (you get there by jumping), learns about time from a ticking watchdog named Tock, and even embarks on a quest to rescue Rhyme and Reason! Somewhere along the way, Milo realizes something astonishing. Life is far from dull. In fact, it’s exciting beyond his wildest dreams…

Do you ever read a book and just wish that you had discovered it at a particular point in your life? Well, I so wish that I had read this book when I was a little human. I picked this one up because my good friend told me that it is the book that got her into reading (she is probably the most prolific reader I know and you can read all of her musings about books here), and I totally understand why. It’s basically a very punny love letter to the English language and the joys of reading and learning!

If you, like me, think that puns are the highest form of wit, then this is the book for you. In the magical world that Milo enters, we find markets where words are sold and mines full of numbers. We discover that Conclusions is an island that’s easy to jump to but hard to escape, that eating subtraction stew just makes you hungrier, and that to reach the Kingdom of Wisdom you must scale the Mountains of Ignorance. 10/10 for whip-smart wordplay.

A lot of people compare this book to Lewis Carroll’s Alice in Wonderland, which I can understand to an extent. Both books are highly imaginative, full of obsessives, and ought to go over children’s heads, but don’t. However, at least in my opinion, there is one big difference between them. The more you think about Alice in Wonderland, the more morbid and perverse it becomes. The Phantom Tollbooth on the other hand is a book filled with charm and joy that nonetheless carries an important message. It calls on us to rise to the challenge of the world by paying proper attention to its wonder and difficulty. As Princess Reason says, “whenever you learn something new, the whole world becomes that much richer”.

The Phantom Tollbooth is a classic that will be read many many times and while I didn’t get to read it as a little human, I sure loved it as a slightly bigger one.


Have you read The Phantom Tollbooth? What did you think of it? Did you love it as much as I did? Would love to hear from you. 


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Anna. Melbourne. Bookseller. Student. Serial tsundokist.

12 thoughts on “The Phantom Tollbooth – Norton Juster”

  1. I have this in my main bookcase! I read it in the 80’s and much as I never read it again since it has left a lasting impression, this is why it is in the main bookcase!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. It definitely deserves a place on your main bookshelf. I’m considering buying a copy (not that I need more books!) just so that I can always have it around. 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

    2. I believe I bought mine at one of them school book fair things and from then it has always been on show. I remember walking about the house with it in my hand, even when I had no intention of reading it, ‘just incase’! I kept it and The Hundred and One Dalmations by Dodie Smith, again, ‘just incase’ I had children one day. Now that I’ve the books and a child just need to pretend I never read the books so she reads them 😂
      BTW my answer to not needing more books is yes you do and plenty more shelves to hold them 😉

      Liked by 1 person

    3. The one I have isn’t the Disney one, it’s what Disney based theirs on…maybe you already know that but most people laugh when I say it is one of my fav books cos they think it’s based on the film lol

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Yes! I love this book. I somehow saw the cartoon as a child andshortly thereafter read the book. It’s one of my reading goals for the year to reread it because it’s been a while! I’ve been wondering when my son is the right age for it – he’s almost 6, but I still think he may not fully appreciate it yet. I’m so glad you discovered it.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. There’s a cartoon?!? That just made my day. I had so much fun reading it and I’m sure your son will love it. My best friend always says ‘seven is the age of reason’ so maybe hold off for another year or so. 😛

      Liked by 1 person

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