Saturday, February 13, 2010
Make Up for Lost Time - Discovering "The Phantom Tollbooth"
A few months ago, I was having a conversation with a friend. Somewhere along the way, something we were discussing reminded him of his favorite childhood book, "The Phantom Tollbooth." He was astonished when he learned that I not only had not read the book, but had never heard of it. I am not sure how, among the hundreds of books I read to my sons over the years, I missed out on the wonders of "The Phantom Tollbooth." He was deeply concerned about this gaping lacuna in my literary experience.
The next time I saw my friend, he smiled and silently handed me a lovingly dog-eared copy of the book. I am so glad. Brilliantly illustrated with line drawings by the incomparable Jules Feiffer, Norton Juster's simple morality tale reads a Pilgrim's Progress for bored children everywhere. Milo, bored with everything in his life, is transported - in the style of C.S. Lewis' wardrobe - through a magic tollbooth to a land where adventures await him and a bevy of memorable characters populate his Herculean challenge of releasing the princesses, Rhyme and Reason from their imprisonment.
When Milo returns to his bedroom, he has learned his lesson and is never again bored. Neither will you be when you read this magical tale.
Juster's clever plays on words are fun. The story is engaging for children and poignant for adults. Anna Quindlen says is best when talking about his classic tale: "I read 'The Phantom Tollbooth' first when I was 10. I still have the book report I wrote, which began 'This is the best book ever.'"
For the eternal child in all of us, this book is food for the soul. Go back and have another taste.