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60 of 62 people found the following review helpful
Firstly, please don't be put off by the hideous cover Collins has plonked on this wonderful book. Inside, you'll find the original drawings by Jules Feiffer, which as as elegant and intelligent as the contents.
No bright child of 7+ could fail to be captivated by this tale. Milo is a bored boy who finds an unexpected present waiting for him on his return from school. It's a tollbooth (it doesn't matter if you don't know what this is). He assembles it, gets into his toy car and the moment he drives past the tollbooth finds himself in a magical land. Once ruled by two brothers, King Azaz the Unabridged (or words) and the Mathemagician, it is falling to rack and ruin because of the exile of the Princesses Rhyme and Reason. But danger lurks at every turn - not least that of Milo failing to notice what's going on. He immediately finds himself driving through the Doldrums, and only Tock the heroic Watchdog can rescue him by waking him up and forcing him to concentrate. His adventures include jumping to Conclusions (an island that looks lovely from afar but it a bleak overcrowded desert on arrival), orchestrating Chroma's colourful orchestra, breaking the Soundkeeper's fortress and learning about infinity - even before he ventures into the demon infested mountains to find the stair to the Castle in the Air.
Packed with splendid jokes, puns and brain-teasers, what is so special about the book is that it encourages children to think about a huge variety of subjects without ever hectoring them. Why is it important to notice details of daily life? Why does it matter that you choose good sounds rather than the ones adored by Dr. Kakphonous A. Dischord and his Dreadful Dynne? Why should you grow up rather than down? What do figures of speech mean, when taken literally? Why is it important to go on learning all through your life?
I read this to my 7 year old, and he loved it so much that it's become the gateway to loving reading. He tries to walk around reading it, and takes it with him wherever he goes. I had exactly the same reaction at the same age - as did my daughter. Just don't judge it by its ghastly cover.
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14 of 14 people found the following review helpful
on 15 September 2005
I first read this book when I was around 11yrs old and I still read it periodically at 34yrs of age! This is a wonderful book with a magical story written with warmth and humour. Suitable for reading ages 8+ this book is full of little moral messages that are very well woven into the tale. Excellent.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
on 7 September 1999
Written with tongue firmly in cheek, this is as much a book to be read aloud, as it is to be read. Juster doesn't just use the English language, but he plays and dances with it, turning common phrases inside-out, and around, but never in a meaningless way.
The story is about Milo, who doesn't know what to do, and his journeys through the Land of Wisdom. To go into detail about the story, is to ruin much of the surprise, but suffice to say, he has grand adventures, defeats dangerous enemies, and generally does everything you come to expect in an adventure meant for children.
If you enjoy reading, you will enjoy this book.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
on 5 August 2002
This was a book I read over and over again as a child. I bought a copy for my eight year old, and he loves it just as much! We have both found the plot unique and enthraling, and it has obviously become recognised as a classic text since I read it originally twenty something years ago, as there is now a teachers guide and it is recommended reading for the National Curriculum. How on earth did the author come up with those characters? I now get the in jokes that I missed back then!
Every child should read this, it's just as captivating as any Harry Potter novel!
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29 of 32 people found the following review helpful
Norton Juster's book is ostensibly a children's book. However, like much of children's literature, it contains hidden (and not so hidden) aspects that are of delight to adults as well. This, when you think of it, makes sense--the point of children's literature is to educate as well as entertain (one hopes!), therefore, it makes sense that some of the lessons will be more 'adult' than the actual storyline would seem to indicate.
Milo and his various friends and enemies encountered along the way serve to illustrate many of the foibles and quirks of adult life. The Phantom Tollbooth serves as a gateway to a place that embodies the physical manifestations of metaphors.
For instance, in Dictionopolis (a city of words) Milo is invited to a banquet at which one must eat one's words. Just as in our world, sometimes those words can be sour and very hard to swallow.
Also, while you can jump to the Isle of Conclusions, you must reach the mainland again only by swimming through the sea of knowledge. And the water is cold. It is not easy to recover from having jumped to conclusions.
The interplay between concepts, the tension between words and numbers, the divisions and alliances that are made, the enemies who seem to be friends, all of these serve to make a delightful play which will interest children and adults.
Milo, of course, makes it home safely after a fascinating journey, and while he would like to take another trip, the phantom tollbooth is needed elsewhere for other children, too. However, Milo realises that he has his own tollbooth in his imagination, and thus the adventure need never end.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
on 30 December 2001
So successful, so subtle. Good humour and intelligent writing make this not only a fun way to learn for children, but it also gives the importance of learning across without being too overbearing. It creates such a magical world, which in some ways, is more real and logical than our own. However, it manages to feel so mystical and intriguing that it pulls you in. A light, fun read for adults and children of all ages.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
Norton Juster's book is ostensibly a children's book. However, like much of children's literature, it contains hidden (and not so hidden) aspects that are of delight to adults as well. This, when you think of it, makes sense--the point of children's literature is to educate as well as entertain (one hopes!), therefore, it makes sense that some of the lessons will be more 'adult' than the actual storyline would seem to indicate.
Milo and his various friends and enemies encountered along the way serve to illustrate many of the foibles and quirks of adult life. The Phantom Tollbooth serves as a gateway to a place that embodies the physical manifestations of metaphors.
For instance, in Dictionopolis (a city of words) Milo is invited to a banquet at which one must eat one's words. Just as in our world, sometimes those words can be sour and very hard to swallow.
Also, while you can jump to the Isle of Conclusions, you must reach the mainland again only by swimming through the sea of knowledge. And the water is cold. It is not easy to recover from having jumped to conclusions.
The interplay between concepts, the tension between words and numbers, the divisions and alliances that are made, the enemies who seem to be friends, all of these serve to make a delightful play which will interest children and adults.
Milo, of course, makes it home safely after a fascinating journey, and while he would like to take another trip, the phantom tollbooth is needed elsewhere for other children, too. However, Milo realises that he has his own tollbooth in his imagination, and thus the adventure need never end.
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16 of 18 people found the following review helpful
on 12 October 2004
This wonderfully imaginative and funny book is my son's favourite book. As a reluctant mildly dyslexic reader he loses interest in a book very quickly. Not so with this one. He loved all the word play and felt extremely chuffed as he worked out all the puns. A huge success. The humour moves quickly though and I know children who are not so quick on the verbal uptake who have found it dull. Be careful you don't give it to them too young. 8 years for the very bright, otherwise 9+.
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7 of 8 people found the following review helpful
Milo is a lad of indeterminate age - about 10, I guess - living in an indeterminate age, who is surrounded by the trappings of the materialistic world in which he lives, and he is BORED! Do you know somebody like that? I did - it was me, in the 70s.

By virtue of the mysterious phantom tollbooth and car, Milo (because he has nothing better to do with his time) wanders into a strange world, peopled by quirky characters and odd locations. He first has to escape from the Doldrums, where nothing happens all day, but then he finds himself travelling to Dictionopolis and Digitopolis - cities of words and numbers, in permanent rivalry, pending the return of princesses Rhyme and Reason - accompanied by the Watchdog and the Humbug, and meeting people who show him completely new ways to look at colours, sounds, music, words and almost everything else you can think of.

This book is a fun read, with short, bedtime-reading sized chapters, but it is intelligent, literate and subtle. If you know anybody who finds themselves bored, and surrounded by the trappings of their materialistic world, get them to take a journey with Milo.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on 28 March 2012
Found this on Amazon a couple of years ago and purchased on the basis of the reviews. Did not know about is when I was a child - my loss!

Now reading it to our second son (8yrs). He can normally take or leave most bedtime stories but this is the first book we have read to him where he has begged us to continue reading when we reach the end of a chapter and say "time for sleep" - which says it all really. His older brother (now 10) had it read to him at a similar age and still rates it as one of his three favourite books (alongside The Hobbit - also read to him and The Harry Potter series - which he read to himself).

Witty, clever, brilliant, educational - it truly is a wonderful book for children. Also great fun for adults to read aloud. Would heartily recommend to anyone with children with enquiring minds.

Just waiting for Hollywood to stumble across it now . . . .
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