The Phantom Tollbooth

Introduction

The Phantom Tollbooth is a children's fantasy adventure novel written by Norton Juster with illustrations by Jules Feiffer, published in 1961 by Random House (USA). It tells the story of a bored young boy named Milo who unexpectedly receives a magic tollbooth one afternoon and, having nothing better to do, drives through it in his toy car, transporting him to the Kingdom of Wisdom, once prosperous but now troubled. There, he acquires two faithful companions and goes on a quest to restore to the kingdom its exiled princesses—named Rhyme and Reason—from the Castle in the Air. In the process, he learns valuable lessons, finding a love of learning. The text is full of puns and wordplay, and many events, such as when Milo unintentionally jumps to Conclusions, an island in Wisdom, explore the literal meanings of idioms.

In 1958, Juster had received a Ford Foundation grant for a children's book about cities. Unable to make progress on that project, he turned to writing what became The Phantom Tollbooth, his first book. His housemate, Feiffer, a cartoonist, interested himself in the project. Jason Epstein, an editor at Random House, bought the book and published it. It has received strong acclaimed reviews and has sold in excess of three million copies, unexpectedly more than its predictions. It has been adapted into a film, opera, and play, and translated into many languages.

Though the book is on its face an adventure story, a major theme is the need for a love of education; through this, Milo applies what he has learned in school, advances in his personal development, and learns to love the life that previously bored him. Critics have compared its appeal to that of Lewis Carroll's Alice's Adventures in Wonderland and to L. Frank Baum's The Wonderful Wizard of Oz.


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