Book Review: The Phantom Tollbooth

200px-PhantomtollboothAbout the book:

The Phantom Tollbooth is a book Norton Juster and illustrated by Jules Feiffer. It’s first copyright date is 1961, our best guess on the publish date. The story was reprinted 2001. It’s a satire/fantasy-adventure about a boy’s adventure in a land of knowledge. The author has written many children’s books including The Dot and the Line. This is a good book for children and tweens everywhere. This classic was made into an animated movie.

About the Author:

Norton Juster worked in the Navy and was a practical joker. He wrote to conquer boredom and was eventually discharged. He wrote and still writes many children’s books and now lives in western Massachusetts with his wife and works as an architect.


Milo is a boy as old as the reader. He’s always bored and has no purpose in the real world. He has no hobbies or any friends; family in the real world are not mentioned. He has no real strengths or weaknesses. He’s is mildly courageous.


The antagonist is boredom and ignorance, but it does not have one name. It is represented by many demons that slow Milo on his way to the Castle in the Air. Their weakness is knowledge and curiosity.


Tock is a watch-dog and Milo’s first partner. He’s very conservative and does not like laziness. He helps Milo keep track of time.

The Humbug is a humbug and the first to get the wrong answer about anything! He’s also cowardly and has a BIG EGO.


Milo’s time in the Kingdom of Wisdom elapses in an hour in the real world, but the time he spends there is indefinite. Time exists and flows like clockwork (Tock is actually a clock/dog mix), but there is no real when in the story.


The Kingdom of Wisdom is nestled between the Mountains of Ignorance and the Foothills of Confusion with the Sea of Knowledge to the east. The Tollbooth is the bridge between our world and theirs and is to the west. Digitopolis is up north by the mountains and Dictionopolis is down south by the foothills. The Forest of Sight lies in between those two cities, with two more cities, Reality and Illusions, in the forest’s center. The Valley of Sound is just north of the forest. The Doldrums is just west-south-west of the forest. Expectations is north of the Doldrums and west of the Valley of Sound. The Island of Conclusions is off the coast (you get there by jumping). The Castle in The Air is above the Mountains of Ignorance.



Milo didn’t want to go to school as he left for it every morning. He didn’t want to go home in the afternoon, too. He was bored with everything in life.

Then, one day, when he arrived back at his family’s apartment after school, he finds a mysterious box in his room. He opens the box and assembles its contents into the tollbooth and drives through in his electric toy car into a land beyond Expectations! There, Milo makes friends, learns about words and numbers, and about subtraction stew. Then he defeats the Demons of Ignorance, rescues and returns Princesses Rhyme and Reason to the Kingdom, and learns to be fascinated and excited with and in life.

As the story goes on, Milo goes from totally bored to totally adventurous. At the beginning of the story, Milo travels through the tollbooth because he has nothing better to do, and at the end he’s excited about the world.

I recommend reading this book, it’s a very good story. I liked it because it combines a wisdom themed world with a fairytale world, then they add the most charming characters.

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