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The Phantom Tollbooth

by Norton Juster
256 pages, Fantasy
Reviewed by Jeanne

A witty story on the value of wisdom; with no questionable content, a definite must-read.

Plot

Milo would hate life, but, (1) it takes too much energy, and (2) he can't make up his mind to do it. He can't make up his mind about anything. If he's doing one thing, he always wants to be doing the opposite; he sees no purpose in anything (especially not how to spell "February"); life in the very essence of itself is Boring.

So when a mysterious tollbooth suddenly appears in his bedroom, he has nothing better to do than get into his toy car and drive through...into a totally different world. A world where letters can be eaten, one may jump to the Island of Conclusions, and where the Demons of Ignorance guard the mountains where the princesses Rhyme and Reason are kept locked away.

Morality

The two kings of Dictionopolis and Digitopolis both believe that their cities are superior to each other, and therefore have nothing to do with each other. However, the whole feud is viewed as silly and stupid. Milo is willing to get past the dreaded Demons of Ignorance to reach the princesses and save them. Ignorance is frowned upon, and Wisdom and Knowledge are upheld.

Spiritual Content

The monsters of the Mountains of Ignorance are known as demons. One character is a "which" (as opposed to a "witch").

Violence

The demons chase Milo, presumably with the intent of destroying him; Tock the Watchdog expresses severe indignation about people "killing time". All the violence is suitable for younger children and is always implied, not actually carried out.

Drug and Alcohol Content

None.

Sexual Content

None.

Crude or Profane Language or Content

None.

Conclusion

This is an amazingly witty read for all ages, suited for the young reader as well as the teenager and the parent. The overarching theme of the importance of wisdom is good and true, and is a message sorely needed in today's society. Juster's puns (half-baked ideas that come from the King of Dictionopolis' "Half Bakery") and his personified virtues and vices (the princesses Rhyme and Reason, the Spelling Bee, and the Humbug are just a few of these) make this book an immediate classic.

Fun Score: 5
Values Score: 5
Written for Age: 11-12

Review Rating:

Average rating: 5 stars
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