Marvelous Middle Grade Mondays – The Phantom Tollbooth

So busy with NaNoWriMo right now, and so close to finishing that I have scarce time to commit to Marvelous Middle Grade Monday. However, I am never one to make excuses, so this week I will offer a brief but pithy recommendation for The Phantom Tollbooth by Norton Juster.  Here’s the blurb from Wikipedia, which was the one that best captured the essence of this great book

The Phantom Tollbooth is a children’s adventure novel and modern fairy tale published in 1961, written by Norton Juster and illustrated by Jules Feiffer. It tells the story of a bored young boy named Milo who unexpectedly receives a magic tollbooth one afternoon and, having nothing better to do, decides to drive through it in his toy car. The tollbooth transports him to a land called the Kingdom of Wisdom. There he acquires two faithful companions, has many adventures, and goes on a quest to rescue the princesses of the kingdom, Princess Rhyme and Princess Reason. The text is full of puns, and many events, such as Milo’s jump to the Island of Conclusions, exemplify literal meanings of English language idioms.

The Phantom Tollbooth turned fifty this year. Hard to believe this very timeless text was published in 1961. It feels as fresh today as it did when I first read it in the 70s. It’s a great book for middle grade boys. There’s not a lot of internal conflict to get bogged down in. Milo’s internal struggle is a quite simple familiar one – he’s bored. But the challenges he faces once he goes through the tollbooth are entertaining and, like last week’s recommendation, The Little Prince, as deep as you want them to be.

The illustrations by Jules Feiffer are as much  a part of this book as the text and harken back to a time when chapter book illustrations were a valued part of publishing. Feiffer is simply a genius of simplicity and expression.

The Phantom Tollbooth is a longer book, at 42, 156 words, and has a slightly higher reading level, grade 6.7, but much of this is due to some advanced vocabulary such as “doldrums”, “procrastinate”,  and “quagmire”.  Nevertheless it’s a great book for readers ready for a bit more of a challenge but not quite up to the 75,000 word tomes on the bestsellers list.

For this week’s “I can’t wait to read” I’m going with Peter Nimble and his Fantastic Eyes by Jonathan Auxier. — Audrey Niffenegger, author of the bestseller The Time Traveler’s Wife blurbs it thus:  “Jonathan Auxier’s strange and inventive debut, Peter Nimble and His Fantastic Eyes, is a beautiful adventure told in a dashing and assured voice. It’s Little Nemo in Slumberland meets Oliver Twist. I enjoyed it tremendously.”  Oh, hello, Amazon? Send this to me NOW!

Visit other Marvelous Middle Grade Monday Blogs here:

– Shannon O’Donnell Click HERE
– Joanne Fritz Click HERE .
– Barbara Watson Click HERE .
– Jennifer Rumberger Click HERE.
– Pam Torres Click HERE .
– Michael Gettel-Gilmartin Click HERE .
– Natalie Aguirre Click HERE
– Akossiwa Ketoglo Click HERE .
– Myrna Foster Click HERE
– Deb Marshall HERE .
– Danika Dinsmore. Click HERE .

9 thoughts on “Marvelous Middle Grade Mondays – The Phantom Tollbooth

  1. First off…loved Peter Nimble. So inventive and a character I fell in love with from page one.

    And. Would you believe I have never read Phantom Toll Booth. I think when I do my read-a-thon I need to include classics that I’ve missed.

  2. I, too, have read PETER NIMBLE (and adored it) but have not read THE PHANTOM TOLLBOOTH ( I did start it when my husband had some knee surgery but then the doctor came in. I know, excuses….). Both of my kids have read it though, and love it!

  3. Peter Nimble is on my tbr list as well. (I just have to make my way to it)
    For The Phantom Toolbooth, I like the cover and especially the expression on the dog’s face. (priceless)
    Thanks for featuring classics because there are high chances that most of your recs will be new to me.
    Oh and good luck with Nano. Only 10 days left (or nine).

  4. Yes! The Phantom Tollbooth is one of my all-time favorite MG books. It’s right up there in my top ten after Charlotte’s Web. I loved Tollbooth in 6th grade, and I still love it. The Whether Man! The Which! It goes without saying! No other book has ever come close to the imaginative wordplay that is the hallmark of Norton Juster’s masterpiece.

    Great choice for MMGM, Gabrielle!

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