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The Phantom Tollbooth by N. Juster

Juster, Norton. The Phantom Tollbooth. 50th Anniversary Edition. Illus. Jules Feiffer.  New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 2011. Print.

The 50th Anniversary Edition of The Phantom Tollbooth is geared as much toward nostalgic adults as it is to a new generation of children. New introductions by the author himself, as well as fellow children’s author Maurice Sendak, accompany a slew of admiring essays by authors ranging from Suzanne Collins to Michael Chabon. The new hardcover edition retains all of the original maps and illustrations, as well as new and old photos of both Juster and Feiffer.

As a child, I missed out on Norton Juster’s wonderful tale of Milo’s journey through the Kingdom of Wisdom; excited as I was to finally delve into a much-hyped classic, I was slightly nervous that my adult gaze would render its charms less pointed. Of course, I needn’t have worried. Juster’s prose highlights a keen ear for dialogue, and his rollicking imagination manifests itself in a mastery of wordplay. While children will delight in the many nonsensical games afoot, adults will marvel at the higher levels of logic that string the plot together.

Of course, The Phantom Tollbooth’s madcap adventures may not have made such a lasting impact were it not grounded in the touching story of Milo’s growth from a bored, unsatisfied child to one who revels in the magic and mystery of the world around him. Juster’s story mimics the general experience of reading—where brief forays into magical kingdoms only serve to make our own world brighter and more marvelous. It would be difficult to leave this book without being somehow improved by it.

While The Phantom Tollbooth will certainly appeal to young teens and pre-teens, younger children (ages 8-10) with high reading levels would perhaps appreciate a book that appeals to their complicated imaginations. However, if there were ever a book that was meant to be experienced by parents and children together, this is the one. The 50th Anniversary Edition is perfect for adults looking to share a childhood treasure with their own children and grandchildren.

Highly recommended: 4 out of 4 stars
Reviewer: Amy Paterson

Amy Paterson is a Public Services Librarian at the University of Alberta’s H. T. Coutts Education Library. She was previously the Editor of the Dalhousie Journal of Interdisciplinary Management and is very happy to be involved in the Deakin Review and the delightful world of children’s literature.