Book Review: The Phantom Tollbooth by Norton Juster

Another embarrassingly late post. I finished this book, AND I had time to finish the Princess Bride before I even began this review. I know, no excuses, but I really am busy!

This was a book I snagged at the Decatur Book Festival in September. I also first heard about the book there a few years back; it was the city of Decatur’s book club book. I thought the idea of having a whole city participate in a book club sounded riveting, and it was really the only reason I wanted to read the book. How fun would it be to stroll around the sidewalks and witness people reading it and know that you’re a part of the group, too! Or to be able to go up to others and ask them about it and actually have people who know what you’re talking about!

Well, maybe it’s only fun for book nerds like me.


Anyway, as I was reading the book, my mother declared that she already tried reading it and it was boring. It definitely was not boring.

I’ve decided that I love puns and play-on-words. They are so witty. I love that, “Oh! I get it!” feeling whenever I read them. Basically, any books with puns are good books. This book had many obvious play-on-words, but I still found them clever. Besides, it is a children’s book; it’s allowed to be simple. The monsters represented things such as excuses and laziness while the people and places Milo (the main character) encountered live up to their names. For instance, Dictionopolis is a city revolving around words. Also, the dialogue demonstrated different usage of words can cause different meanings to be interpreted. This book is one you must read, not just listen to, to understand all the different puns and play-on-words the author pinches into his pot of perfection.

The plot’s simplicity made it easier to focus on the allegory in the story. The theme of The Phantom Tollbooth was distinct. It showed children that everything is an adventure, so don’t waste your time with useless activities. The lesson is taught through Milo and his companions, Tock who is a watch dog (get it!?) and Humbug who is a grumpy beetle, embarking on the classic Hero’s Journey 8-fold path. a

My English teacher would be proud of me for noticing that.


The Hero’s Journey Analysis: 

  1. The Call: He finds the tollbooth in his room. 
  2. The Threshold: He steps into the tollbooth into another world.
  3. The Challenges and Temptations: He and his friends go through many obstacles to find Rhyme and Reason, the princesses who were exiled.
  4. The Abyss: He goes through the Mountains of Ignorance to rescue Rhyme and Reason while fighting off the monsters who reside there.
  5. The Revelation: He realizes that he is needed and has a purpose.
  6. The Transformation: Milo notices the importance of staying away from the monsters of Ignorance and how exciting it can be to actually use time wisely. 
  7. The Atonement: Milo decides to learn more and enjoy life to the fullest.
  8. The Return: He leaves the tollbooth and goes back to his regular life, now noticing all the grand things he can do.

schoolloveYou’re quite welcome for that little literature lesson. I’m always trying to teach the world something new. I wouldn’t want anyone getting stuck in the Mountains of Ignorance. 😉

I adored this book and thought it held many great quotes. I recommend it for children of all ages, but smaller kids especially will enjoy this read.

Cute Quotes: 

  • The Mathemagician (haha!) nodded knowingly and stroke his chin several times. “You’ll find,” he remarked gently, “that the only thing you can do easily is be wrong, and that’s hardly worth the effort.”
  • “You must never feel badly about making mistakes,” explained Reason quietly, “as long as you take the trouble to learn from them. For you often learn more by being wrong for the right reasons than being right for the wrong reasons.”

A Phantom Tollbooth is an easy and fun read with many important lessons to be learned hidden in the puns and play-on-worlds between the pages.

4/5 Stars


One thought on “Book Review: The Phantom Tollbooth by Norton Juster

  1. Pingback: Top Ten Books that should be in Your Beach Bag | Stealing Pages

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