Give me books, fruit, french wine and fine weather and a little music out of doors. --John Keats
Wednesday, February 29, 2012
"The Phantom Tollbooth" by Norton Juster
How did I ever make it out of American Childhood of the 70s without reading The Phantom Tollbooth? Somehow I'd never even heard of it until my friend BR mentioned it just a few years ago. (It was a favorite book from her schooldays! I missed out.) And then my parents gave a copy to Bookworm Child for her 8th birthday (trying to make up for not giving it to me for my 8th birthday?), so I decided it was time to read it.
Milo leads a ho-hum life. He is never content, and always wants to be somewhere he isn't. Nothing interests him, and he doesn't see the point of learning anything new. But he certainly perks up when he comes home one afternoon to find a strange, enormous package in his room. He opens the package to find ONE GENUINE TURNPIKE TOLLBOOTH: EASILY ASSEMBLED AT HOME, AND FOR USE BY THOSE WHO HAVE NEVER TRAVELED IN LANDS BEYOND.
So Milo sets off in his small electric automobile to explore everything there is to see between the Mountains of Ignorance and the Sea of Knowledge. Along the way, accompanied by a watchdog and a Humbug, he learns all kinds of interesting things and is subjected to loads of great puns and--gasp!--he actually enjoys it. The message of this book can be boiled down to this: See? Learning Can Be Fun! (And Funny!)
Unfortunately, I found it wasn't the right time for me to read this book. You would think that, for someone with a love of language and fun homonyms, any time would be a good time; but apparently I was distracted by the vicissitudes of life and I didn't give Milo the attention he deserved. I feel if I'd taken the time to savor this book (and it's short and swift, so that wouldn't have meant too much time) I might have enjoyed it much more.
Here's something odd: as I read I was thinking this book certainly couldn't be made into a movie (how would it work when Faintly Macabre tells Milo, "I'm not a witch, I'm a which"? and there are so many similar situations), but apparently I was wrong. Surprisingly, there has already been a movie made from this book (though it was a cartoon), AND a remake is in the works for 2013!