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Collins Modern Classics – The Phantom Tollbooth Paperback – Special Edition, 5 Jun 2002
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"It seems to me that almost everything is a waste of time," Milo laments. "[T]here's nothing for me to do, nowhere I'd care to go, and hardly anything worth seeing." This bored, bored young protagonist who can't see the point to anything is knocked out of his glum humdrum by the sudden and curious appearance of a tollbooth in his bedroom. Since Milo has absolutely nothing better to do, he dusts off his toy car, pays the toll, and drives through. What ensues is a journey of mythic proportions, during which Milo encounters countless odd characters who are anything but dull.
Norton Juster received (and continues to receive) enormous praise for this original, witty, and oftentimes hilarious novel, first published in 1961. In an introductory "Appreciation" written by Maurice Sendak for the 35th anniversary edition, he states: "The Phantom Tollbooth leaps, soars, and Abounds in right notes all over the place, as any proper masterpiece must." Indeed.
As Milo heads toward Dictionopolis he meets with the Whether Man ("for after all it's more important to know whether there will be weather than what the weather will be"), passes through The Doldrums (populated by Lethargarians), and picks up a watchdog named Tock (who has a giant alarm clock for a body). The brilliant satire and double entendre intensifies in the Word Market, where after a brief scuffle with Officer Short Shrift, Milo and Tock set off toward the Mountains of Ignorance to rescue the twin Princesses, Rhyme and Reason. Anyone with an appreciation for language, irony, or Alice in Wonderland-style adventure will adore this book for years on end. (Ages 8 and up) -- Amazon.com --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
"The story is always charmingly inventive -- Jules Feiffer's drawings splendidly catch the spirit of it -- I think it could become a well-thumbed classic." Guardian "The most unpredictable, the most stimulating children's book I have read for a very long time. Words, numbers, cliches, proverbs are taken literally, imaginatively or punningly in an enthralling and very funny dazzle of mental fireworks." Sunday Times "An altogether remarkable book, one that should delight any bright child, and that will be no burden for a parent to read aloud. Related with unflagging wit and a marvellous sense of the fun to be had with words, this book will be enjoyed by children for years to come." SpectatorSee all Product description
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However, I can't recommend this edition. For some reason, the editors chose to "translate" the book to British English. Most of the time I didn't mind too much (e.g. replacing "apartment" with "flat"). I do feel that this underestimates kids ability to understand that different place have different ways of referring to things. (My experience has been quite the opposite: they are usually fascinated by it.) But it does become an issue when words are changed when they are a part of one of the many plays on words (e.g. replacing "cents" with "pence" when there is a play on "sense").
Full disclosure: I'm an American who have lived in Britain for much of my adult life, which undoubtedly influences how I feel about this. That said, I'd feel the same way if a publisher were to Americanise, say, Alice in Wonderland or Swallow and Amazons. I the the Americanised Harry Potter books are, frankly, ridiculous.
A fantastical adventure tale this does have a lot in common with Alice in Wonderland and other stories including Pilgrim’s Progress, and takes us into a whole new world. When Milo returns from school one day so there is a package waiting for him; as he reads the instructions and builds a tollbooth, so he then drives his little electric car past it and finds himself whisked away.
As we follow his journey he meets new people, makes friends and travels to Dictionoplis and then onto Digitoplis, and ultimately beyond, to try and rescue two princesses, Rhyme and Reason. Full of wordplay and puns this is a wonderful book that hopefully will help your child to acquire a reason for and some pleasure in learning. It does seem weird nowadays that although this was properly published and not self published it initially did very badly, although no one had any great expectations, and then gradually people caught onto it and made it such an enduring book and now considered a classic. And as Juster grew up watching the Marx Brothers you do get that sense of humour here, making this great to read to yourself or out loud to your child.
Some books are just such a pleasure to read because they are fun, and this certainly falls into that category. This does have the original illustrations as well, which is another bonus.
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