The Phantom Tollbooth – Norton Juster

The Phantom TollboothBook Review by Grace Heine

Title: The Phantom Tollbooth
Written by: Norton Juster
Genre: Fantasy
Publisher: Epstein & Carroll, distributed by Random House
Publication Date: 1961
Paperback: 256 pages

Who could possibly have left such an enormous package and such a strange one? For, while it was not quite square, it was definitely not round, and for its size it was larger than almost any other big package of smaller dimension that he’d ever seen.

Attached to one side was a bright-blue envelope which said simple: “FOR MILO, WHO HAS PLENTY OF TIME.” …
He thought about it for quite a while and then opened the envelope, but just to be polite.
“ONE GENUINE TURNPIKE TOLLBOOTH,” it stated — and then it went on:

One very boring day Milo finds a large package in his room. When he unwraps it he finds the box contains: “One (1) genuine turnpike tollbooth to be erected according to directions. Three (3) precautionary signs to be used in a precautionary fashion. Assorted coins for paying tolls. One (1) map, strictly up to date, showing how to get from here to there. One (1) book of rules and traffic regulations which may not be bent or broken.” (page 11)

After assembling the tollbooth, Milo gets into his small car and pays the fare. Immediately he is transported to a strange world with very strange people who task him with rescuing the princesses, Rhyme and Reason. With the help of his trusty watchdog Tock (who ticks), and the Humbug (who talks), Milo sets off for the Castle in the Air and quite consequently learns a few things along the way.

Picture The Wizard of Oz with a car, homophones, and a talking dog and you’ve basically summarized The Phantom Tollbooth. Even though the book was originally published in 1961, Milo is your typical bored-with-everything modern kid.

However, once he arrives in The Lands Beyond he starts to understand the importance of learning – no matter what the subject – and realizes there is so much to do and see (even in his “boring” world).

I wasn’t sure if I would enjoy this book during my rereading, but thankfully The Phantom Tollbooth was as good as I remembered. The book is funny and clever and relies heavily on homophones and general goofiness. There is an actual Spelling Bee, an island called Conclusions you can only get to by jumping, a bakery that serves half-baked ideas (not to mention synonym-buns), and many more equally ridiculous ideas.

My favorite part of the book is when Milo meets Chroma and his musicians. This orchestra doesn’t play music but instead performs colors and makes the sun rise and set with their melodies. I could read and reread that chapter for years and never grow bored of it.

I recommend The Phantom Tollbooth for all ages as it is one of those rare books that has something for everyone.

For More Information about the Book and Author Click: HERE

Age Range: 8 – adult


Violence: Demons chase Milo and friends.

Sensuality: None.

Profanity: None.

Other: Milo encounters demons on the Mountains of Ignorance.

Personal Rating: 3 out of 5 stars
Cleanness Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

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Grace Heine is a 17-year-old wanna be writer who spends most of her time reading, writing, playing piano, or finding clever ways to be unproductive. You can visit her book review blog here.

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