I was introduced to The Phantom Tollbooth by Norton Juster sometime during my third or fourth grade English class and it has remained one of my favorite books to this day.
If you’re a major word nerd like me, you have no business not knowing about this book. Go and get yourself a copy. Right now. Juster indulges in rich wordplay throughout the book– not in a flat, jokebook way but in a way that seamlessly melds together into a meaningful story.
This book is great for kids with its humorous characters and whimsical adventuring, but it was pretty delightful to read as an adult as well. Beyond the witty diction, Juster includes several surprisingly accurate insights into present day and future society, law-enforcement, and government.
On a more personal note: I was rooming with my little sister in Provo when I first started dating Josh. Both of us being culinary enthusiasts, we’d concocted some kind of soup for the three of us one day. My little sister, who has a ginormous appetite, commented upon finishing her bowl, “I’m still hungry. This is like subtraction stew.” I smiled, knowing she was referring to the meal served in the Numbers Mine in the kingdom of the Mathemagician. Then Josh piped up, “you mean like in The Phantom Tollbooth?” I stared at him, stunned that he knew from just that small reference what book we were talking about. I knew it had to be love.
Seriously though, I know there are tons of new books out there for kids to read with their pretty, fancy covers and collectible extras. There is just something about the childrens’ classics, though, that is missing from these newfangled numbers, and The Phantom Tollbooth is definitely one of those classics.
Go get this book for a cool kid in your life. I think it will be one they will always remember.