Friday, February 15, 2008


The Book: Norman Juster, THE PHANTOM TOLLBOOTH. Dell Yearling paperback reprint, 2001. Fine condition.
First read: 1973
Owned since: 2002 (this copy)

No particular reason for choosing this book today; it was on the shelf next to Stuart Little, and it's one of my favorites.

Milo is bored and restless; he always wants to be someplace else, and is never interested in whatever's happening to him at the time. One afternoon he gets a gift, addressed "TO MILO, WHO HAS PLENTY OF TIME." It's a tollbooth, with a map, some signs, some coins, and a book of rules. Milo passes through the tollbooth, and into a world stranger than anything he could have imagined -- if he did imagine anything, which he doesn't.

One of the signs says, "Please have your destination in mind," but Milo doesn't have anything in his mind -- so he winds up in the Doldrums. A watchdog named Tock rescues Milo from the Doldrums and becomes Milo's companion for the rest of his travels.

Eventually they get involved in a quest to bring the Princesses Rhyme and Reason back to reunite the Kingdom of Wisdom, but the plot is the least important part of the book. Along the way, Milo and Tock meet the Spelling Bee and the Humbug, eat some words, witness a symphony of color, and visit someone else's Point of View. It's all very silly and very smart, and the book is as enchanting now as it was when I first read it in third grade.

What I Read This Week

Lisa Gardner, Hide. Phyllis Whitney died last week; she was the queen of romantic suspense, and I read as many of her books as I could find when I was a teenager. It's a strange thing, but I don't read much romantic suspense anymore, and reading this book reminded me of why. The thriller part of it -- about a young woman who's grown up on the run from a threat she can't even identify -- is terrific. The romance part of it felt clumsy and inappropriate.

Kelley Armstrong, No Humans Involved. Not just romantic suspense, but supernatural romantic suspense, and mostly great fun. Again, the main story -- of a necromancer who must save the ghosts of children -- is excellent, but the human-werewolf romantic subplot did nothing for me. It's probably just my bad attitude.


Ed Lamb said...

You just know there would have to be some guy on YouTube reading this book (

It's also worth mentioning that when I did Literacy Volunteers of America volunteering that I had my kids read this book.

I'm not bragging about my volunteering. I'm saying that this book is the pinnacle for just shutting up and realizing YOU can do it. Whatever "it" is.

Anonymous said...

I am way behind on this.
This book was the one book I would give as a gift to a lot of people. I was surprized how few had read it. It was good gift for youths and also interesting for adults.

I always liked the Isle of Conclusions

You can jump to Conclusions but you have to swim back