January 25, 2012
The Canon: The Phantom Tollbooth
I know, it's incredible. Astonishing, really, that a bookavore so well-read as I could possibly go twenty two years without The Phantom Tollbooth clutched greedily in her paws.
To be honest I was a little concerned when I began this book that it would turn out much like my reading experience of Betsy-Tacy. I read that one for the first time in December, and while I could see my five-year-old self adoring these books, my twenty-two-year-old self merely nodded approvingly in a few places and shrugged at the end.
Luckily The Phantom Tollbooth is a book no word lover could ever shrug at. This is why, though it hasn't been in my life for very long, I feel confident in saying that The Phantom Tollbooth will have a treasured place in my hypothetical child's library. (Of course my child will love words as I do - how could s/he not?)
Frequent readers of this sort of book will not be fooled by the dangers presented in its pages. Of course Milo will rescue the princesses Rhyme and Reason and come out at the other end alive. That good triumphs in the end is not at question. The delight, then, is in the words themselves.
It's clear that Norton Juster is a master at wordplay. The wit! The double meanings! The literalization of the Doldrums, Expectations, Conclusions... There is something witty happening on every page. I loved every second of this book, though if forced to pick and choose I would give Tock first prize, followed closely by Chroma's orchestra.
If you love words and adventures and dogs, I recommend this book to you. It would be an excellent read-aloud pick, but only if you share the illustrations liberally.