Thursday, October 7, 2010

"The Phantom Tollbooth" Appreciation

Not many books have to ability to be intelligent, daring, and funny.
"You can pick any assortment you like or buy a special box complete with all letters, punctuation marks, and a book of instructions. Here, taste an A; they're quite good."
Milo nibbled carefully at the letter and discovered that it was quite sweet and delicious- just the way you'd expect an A to taste.
"I knew you'd like it," laughed the letter man, popping two G's and an R into his mouth and letting the juice drip down his chin.
  I first read "The Phantom Tollbooth" by Norton Juster when I was seven years old. It took me four weeks to read it. Quite honestly, I went through a lot of feelings about the book. I was first confused. I didn't really know what a tollbooth was, and I didn't understand why Milo wasn't excited about being in a different world. Then a little scared of the Doldrums and Tock, then interested, once Dictionopolis came into the story, then entertained, then confused again, this time about Dischord and Dyne, then happy that Milo completed his journey, and finally, sad that the book was over.
  "The Phantom Tollbooth" is a book about a bored, lonely boy named Milo, who has no interest in anything at all. He discovers a strange tollbooth in his bedroom, and a card that says "For Milo, who has all the time in the world." Milo, who is still barely interested, hops into a toy car, enters the tollbooth, and ends up in a different world. He encounters several characters, including the Whether Man, and a literal "watch" dog named Tock. He enters Dictionopolis, and learns that in order  to bring peace between Dictionopolis and Digitopolis, he must rescue Rhyme and Reason, and teach the two places that they cannot function without words (Digitopolis,) and numbers (Dictionopolis.)

     Re-discovering "The Phantom Tollbooth" was wonderful. It is still the same book that it was six years ago; worn-out red hard cover, blue drawn map of Milo's tollbooth world, pencil illustrations. I remember how much I liked Tock and the Humbug when I was younger, and this time reading it, I tried to focus on the smaller details I missed last time I read it, like how Milo's feelings change throughout the book about the tollbooth world, and life in general. When I was seven, I felt connected to the book. I felt the the journey was funny, yet serious, the characters were true, and the overall story was a joy to read.

 On the surface, "The Phantom Tollbooth" is about a fantasy rescue mission, but really, it is a story of friendship, a desire to learn, and appreciation of the beauty in life. When I was younger, I waited for the tollbooth the come to me, but like Milo, I realized that there is so much to do in life. Some books we read when we are young change us. "The Phantom Tollbooth" is one of those books.

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