The Phantom Tollbooth by NORTON JUSTERThe Phantom Tollbooth by NORTON JUSTER

The Phantom Tollbooth

byNORTON JUSTERIllustratorJules Feiffer

Paperback | October 12, 1988

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Hailed as “a classic. . . . humorous, full of warmth and real invention” (The New Yorker), this beloved story--first published more than fifty ago--introduces readers to Milo and his adventures in the Lands Beyond. 

For Milo, everything’s a bore. When a tollbooth mysteriously appears in his room, he drives through only because he’s got nothing better to do. But on the other side, things seem different. Milo visits the Island of Conclusions (you get there by jumping), learns about time from a ticking watchdog named Tock, and even embarks on a quest to rescue Rhyme and Reason! Somewhere along the way, Milo realizes something astonishing. Life is far from dull. In fact, it’s exciting beyond his wildest dreams. . . .

Features an appreciation by Maurice Sendak, award-winning author of Where the Wild Things Are!

“I read [The Phantom Tollbooth] first when I was ten. I still have the book report I wrote, which began ‘This is the best book ever.’”—The New York Times

“The Phantom Tollbooth is the closest thing we have to a modern Alice in Wonderland.”—The Guardian

“The book lingers long after turning the final page. . . . A classic indeed.” —Los Angeles Review of Books

“You loved the humor and adventure . . . and [now] you’ll marvel at [the book's] wit, complexity, and its understanding of how children perceive the passage of time.” —Entertainment Weekly
Norton Juster is an architect and the author of other highly acclaimed children’s books, including The Dot and the Line, The Hello, Goodbye Window, illustrated by Chris Raschka, which received the Caldecott Medal, and The Odious Ogre, also illustrated by Jules Feiffer.   Jules Feiffer is the author and illustrator of two novels for you...
Title:The Phantom TollboothFormat:PaperbackDimensions:272 pages, 7.56 × 5.19 × 0.61 inPublished:October 12, 1988Publisher:Random House Children's BooksLanguage:English

The following ISBNs are associated with this title:

ISBN - 10:0394820371

ISBN - 13:9780394820378

Appropriate for ages: 9 - 12


Rated 5 out of 5 by from Amazing! I read this book as a child and I still think it's amazing. My friends and I still talk about the concepts that were addressed and how we can still relate to it some 20 years later. Definitely recommend reading it!
Date published: 2018-06-02
Rated 5 out of 5 by from A Magical Classic I was pleasantly surprised after finishing The Phantom Tollbooth. I expected it to be a fun and silly children's book but I didn't expect it to be so clever. The writing was fantastic and I loved how it mixed a silly world with this really interesting writing style. It was almost like a mix of Roald Dahl and Lewis Carroll. It's easily the most fun I've had reading a classic to date and I highly recommend it to anyone who has yet to read it.
Date published: 2018-03-12
Rated 4 out of 5 by from “There’s nothing for me to do, nowhere I’d care to go, and hardly anything worth seeing.” What a great little story. I’ve only read this as an adult and wished that I read it as a kid! Lots of great messages of finding the importance within life, even though it may seem rather odd. A fun short read that I’m going to save for MY children haha
Date published: 2018-03-03
Rated 5 out of 5 by from A good book for everyone Definitely deserved to be called a classic. Good for all ages.
Date published: 2017-11-21
Rated 5 out of 5 by from One of the best This classic will last through the ages as a child's first introduction to true literature. While easy enough to read as a child, the imagery within is powerful enough to captivate readers of all ages. A must-read for all.
Date published: 2017-07-20
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Brilliant I read this as a child and decided to reread it as an adult. There were so many things that I was perhaps to young to fully understand that I really appreciated this time around, like the bird who lives in a town called Context, but is always away from the town, or "out of context" It was brilliantly written - definitely recommend especially for those who read it at a young age.
Date published: 2017-05-29
Rated 5 out of 5 by from A classic with wonderful images and brain-tickling scenarios.
Date published: 2017-05-24
Rated 5 out of 5 by from How Have I Missed This Book?? Picked up this book to read with my kids (it was on all the must read lists), and I loved it. Full of humour and just a fun read! It has quickly become one of my favorites. I just couldn't put it down. Such witty word play and puns. #plumreview
Date published: 2017-05-16
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Favourite Kid's Book I first read this book when I was in Grade 6 and found it so funny and exhilarating. The writing is inventive and silly, while still sharp enough to cut you. Loved this book then, and I still love it now.
Date published: 2017-03-07
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Good but doesnt live up to the hype
Date published: 2017-02-12
Rated 5 out of 5 by from The Phantom Tollbooth This book is fantastic.A grand adventure through the lands beyond."There was once a boy named Milo who didn't know what to do with himself — not just sometimes, but always.
Date published: 2016-12-21
Rated 5 out of 5 by from CREATIVE Amazing book! Tons of fun.
Date published: 2016-12-06
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Fall in love with reading This was one of my all time favorite children's book. When I was younger I was really into reading yet, and this made me fall in love with books. It turns pages into a senors experience, and is a delightful journey about where your imagination can take you. Perfect for anyone who has struggled with reading, it's sure to make you fall in love with the written word.
Date published: 2015-10-29
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Excellent, whimsical story I read this last when I was a child. It's still as wonderful as I remember it.
Date published: 2014-08-22
Rated 3 out of 5 by from World of amazing play on words, adventure and fun The Phantom Tollbooth written by Norton Juster and illustrated by Jules Feiffer was originally published January 1961. It tells the story of Milo a boy who finds everything boring. He wants whatever he can’t have like the grass is always greener on the other side. One day he arrives home to find a mysterious phantom tollbooth was delivered to his bedroom. When he puts it together and drives his little car through he finds himself on a road trip through a mysterious land. He encounters many colorful characters along the way including a ticking watchdog called Tock, the mathemagician and the Whether man. He makes his way through the empires of dictionopolis and digitopolis on his way to find the missing princesses Rhyme and Reason. Juster weaves a world of amazing puns and plays on idioms and famous English sayings. It was as if there was a lesson that each chapter could teach us. I think that they were hidden enough that kids reading this would understand, but would find the adventure so intriguing they don’t realize that they are actually learning something valuable. It’s easy to see that the author has a passion for wordplay The adventure was fun; along the way I learned one shouldn’t jump to conclusions, and to be careful of words because what you don’t say is important as what you do. The main idea throughout the novel was this battle of knowledge vs ignorance. It was pressed that knowledge was good and ignorance is evil and I think that is a good lesson to learn at an early age. The book was a very quick read and the pictures were adorable. It really brought the world to life. I liked the fact that the book includes a map of the world as well so I could really picture everything in my head. I think this would be a great story to read with children and see what they take away from it. They will love the adventure and the lessons as well. What he drove: a small electric automobile Where he went: from the Doldrums to Dictionopolis, the isle of confusion to Digitopolis What they listened to: the sound of Tock the ticking watchdog Check my blog for more reviews:
Date published: 2012-06-22
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Absolutely loved it A co-worker recommended this book to me, and I'm certainly glad he did. The Phantom Tollbooth is so much fun, I was smiling the whole time while reading it. The illustrations are just fantastic, and all the the wordplay involved in making the book work is just astounding. I will be recommending this book to everyone I know!
Date published: 2010-02-11
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Witty and fun I read this several times as a child and recently reread it to my son. It's very imaginative. I love the wordplay. To this day, I always think of Milo when someone says, "you're jumping to Conclusions"!
Date published: 2009-04-21
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Must be re-read as an adult to experience the full joy of its genius! For Milo, life was void of excitement, mystery and fun. As he plodded on through the motions of school and everyday life, he found himself always in a hurry to be someplace else, unfortunately to no avail, as he could not find interest in anywhere he ended up. That all changed when he happened upon a tollbooth in his bedroom upon returning from school one day. And so began his wild adventure to the Lands Beyond. With the help of a ticking watchdog named Tock and a clumsy Humbug, Milo commences a journey to return the sorely missed princesses Rhyme and Reason to the City of Wisdom. Although it first appears that Milo is there to help the characters in this faraway land, it is soon apparent that he will also be the recipient of much guidance and important knowledge that he has been lacking in his own life. Milo is reminded of the importance of slowing down to appreciate the beauty that life has to offer, the necessity of unpleasant experiences in order to properly appreciate the good times, and that everything we learn is necessary and has a reason or a purpose, even if we’re not aware of it at the time. He encounters such demons as Procrastination, Habit, Insincerity and Fear in The Mountains of Ignorance, and must draw on his newly acquired knowledge in his efforts to prevail. Not only has Norton Juster created a timeless adventure, he has creatively infused all the necessary elements of life’s important lessons, making The Phantom Tollbooth beloved by both children and parents alike.
Date published: 2008-11-25
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Amazing! This is one of the best books I have ever read, as a child and again as an adult. I have extremely vivid memories of reading it growing up, and have re-read it many times since. Sure to please everyone!
Date published: 2007-03-20
Rated 5 out of 5 by from THE best!!! all these years, i have been pursued to read this book. At last I got hold it, and it was...great! stupendous! it's ingenius...the author has written it in a very witty doesn't make sense...yet it does at the same time!! this is a book suitable for all ages... :D
Date published: 2006-12-26
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Imaginative My dad sold books for a while when I was a kid, and one day he received a box of novels from a friend. This book was in it, and my dad handed it over to me, not knowing that it would soon become one of my childhood favorites. I love it still, and am amazed at the original, imaginative, and awe-inspiring plot and characters this book brings everytime I read it.
Date published: 2006-07-12
Rated 5 out of 5 by from exelent Wonderful book. Very inmaginative and fun. great charictors, plot, theorys and ideas. Perfect for a pre-teen in search of a chalanging, adventerous chapter book. By far the best book i've read all year! I can't wait to read more Norton Juster!
Date published: 2006-02-19
Rated 5 out of 5 by from The best book EVER This book has inspired me to write and do a book report on the book my first book is come in out soon bye for now p.s. I'm cnadian
Date published: 2003-12-06
Rated 5 out of 5 by from A childhood favorite of mine One of the most memorable,quirky, odd, fun, stimulating, and wonderful books from my childhood. Even better, the theme (underlying message) is that we should look for the interesting things in life, and that LEARNING IS INTERESTING. A wonderful gift to pass on to any young person!
Date published: 2003-10-20
Rated 5 out of 5 by from 2nd generation reader When I was little, my aunt gave me a copy of this book, as she and my mother both read it as children and loved it. I thought it was amazing, and in high school even did a speech for my english class on it which lasted over an hour and a half... My teacher wanted me to share it with the whole school! I'm now out of university, still reading children's books (who doesn't love Harry Potter??), and The Phantom Tollbooth is still one of my favorites!
Date published: 2003-07-29
Rated 5 out of 5 by from I've loved this since 2nd grade Whenever I rush to the mailbox as if I could expect it to contain anything but junk mail and bills, I know it's because deep in the back of my mind, I'm hoping someone has sent me a Phantom Tollbooth. Milo, a boy seemingly unable to enjoy anything, gets a Phantom Tollbooth in the mail as an unexpected, anonymous unbirthday present, and passes through it to fabulous adventures that transform his outlook. The whole thing is an allegory but, like the Chronicles of Narnia, can be thoroughly enjoyed as a straight adventure story by children too young to get the word-play. I first read this in second grade & I keep rediscovering it joyfully.
Date published: 2002-12-02
Rated 5 out of 5 by from The phantom tollbooth I think this book was very good as a kid i think this is a good classroom book for about grade 5 or 6. The phantom tollbooth is a fantasy book about a boy and his odd friends. If you like fantasy books you'll love this book.
Date published: 2002-05-17
Rated 5 out of 5 by from THE GREATEST THis book is my absolute favorite and it is truly remarkable. I loved the way it was written. As it the whole story is a play on words, the author creates a whole different world in from the eyes a a very sad little biy named milo. I would reccommend this book very highly.
Date published: 2001-02-06
Rated 5 out of 5 by from THE BEST There has never been a better book.I will tell a story of how I found this awesome book. One day I was in the library when I had no books to get.I didn't have any more time so I just grabbed a book off the shelf.I thought it had a good name so I checked it out of the library.I started to read it.I loved it. It is my favourite book of all time.
Date published: 2000-06-03
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Seeing the world for the very first time Among the most intelligent books ever written for children, this is a comic fantasy that finds excitement and adventure in the simplest joys of learning. Following Milo as he learns to think about the world around him (with the help of such memorable characters as Faintly Macabre, the not-so-wicked Which) is a genuine literary treat. A must for 'Oz' or 'Narnia' (or, come to think of it, Harry Potter) fans; recommended highly for thoughtful kids in general.
Date published: 2000-03-27
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Awesome book! My son was given this book by his teacher when he was 9; he wasn't really interested. He is now 11 and has read it 3 times!! Great fantasy/adventure combination; entertaining read for the parents, too. This one will be on my gift-giving list this Christmas.
Date published: 1999-09-22
Rated 5 out of 5 by from A Wonderful Tale of Fantasy I remember reading this book in grade 6 for a novel study in 1993. All the students were given different books, and I so happen received The Phantom Tollbooth. I'm 16 now, and I still remember how Milo kept 'jumping' to the island of conclusions, and how he met a boy that was a fraction. I highly recommend this book to everyone of any age.
Date published: 1999-06-16
Rated 5 out of 5 by from The Phantom Tollbooth I read this book when I was 12. It is now 20 years later and I have never forgotten it. In my opinion, this is the best children's book ever written.
Date published: 1999-05-06

Read from the Book

Chapter I: MiloThere was once a boy named Milo who didn’t know what to do with himself — not just sometimes, but always.When he was in school he longed to be out, and when he was out he longed to be in. On the way he thought about coming home, and coming home he thought about going. Wherever he was he wished he were somewhere else, and when he got there he wondered why he’d bothered. Nothing really interested him — least of all the things that should have. “It seems to me that almost everything is a waste of time,” he remarked one day as he walked dejectedly home from school. “I can’t see the point in learning to solve useless problems, or subtracting turnips from turnips, or knowing where Ethiopia is or how to spell February.” And, since no one bothered to explain otherwise, he regarded the process of seeking knowledge as the greatest waste of time of all.As he and his unhappy thoughts hurried along (for while he was never anxious to be where he was going, he liked to get there as quickly as possible) it seemed a great wonder that the world, which was so large, could sometimes feel so small and empty.“And worst of all,” he continued sadly, “there’s nothing for me to do, nowhere I’d care to go, and hardly anything worth seeing,” He punctuated this last thought with such a deep sigh that a house sparrow singing nearby stopped and rushed home to be with his family.Without stopping or looking up, Milo dashed past the buildings and busy shops that lined the street and in a few minutes reached home — dashed through the lobby — hopped onto the elevator — two, three, four, five, six, seven, eight, and off again — opened the apartment door — rushed into his room — flopped dejectedly into a chair, and grumbled softly, “Another long afternoon.”He looked glumly at all the things he owned. The books that were too much trouble to read, the tools he’d never learned to use, the small electric automobile he hadn’t driven in months — or was it years? — and the hundreds of other games and toys, and bats and balls, and bits and pieces scattered around him. And then, to one side of the room, just next to the phonograph, he noticed something he had certainly never seen before.Who could possibly have left such an enormous package and such a strange one? For, while it was not quite square, it was definitely not round, and for its size it was larger than almost any other big package of smaller dimension that he’d ever seen.Attached to one side was a bright-blue envelope which said simply: “FOR MILO, WHO HAS PLENTY OF TIME.” Of course, if you’ve ever gotten a surprise package you can imagine how puzzled and excited Milo was; and if you’ve never gotten one, pay close attention, because someday you might.“I don’t think it’s my birthday,” he puzzled, “and Christmas must be months away, and I haven’t been outstandingly good, or even good at all.” (He had to admit this even to himself.) “Most probably I won’t like it anyway, but since I don’t know where it came from, I can’t possibly send it back.” He thought about it for quite a while and then opened the envelope, but just to be polite.“ONE GENUINE TURNPIKE TOLLBOOTH,” it stated — and then it went on:“EASILY ASSEMBLED AT HOME, AND FOR USE BY THOSE WHO HAVE NEVER TRAVELED IN LANDS BEYOOND.”“Beyond what?” thought Milo as he continued to read.“THIS PACKAGE CONTAINS THE FOLLOWING ITEMS:“One (1) genuine turnpike tollbooth to be erected according to directions.“Three (3) precautionary signs to be used in a precautionary fashion.“Assorted coins for use in paying tolls.“One (1) map, up to date and carefully drawn by master cartographers, depicting natural and man-made features.“One (1) book of rules and traffic regulations, which may not be bent or broken.”And in smaller letters at the bottom it concluded:“RESULTS ARE NOT GUARANTEED, BUT IF NOT PERFECTLY SATISFIED, YOUR WASTED TIME WILL BE REFUNDED.”Following the instructions, which told him to cut here, lift there, and fold back all around, he soon had the tollbooth unpacked and set up on its stand. He fitted the windows in place and attached the roof, which extended out on both sides, and fastened on the coin box. It was very much like the tollbooths he’d seen many times on family trips, except of course it was much smaller and purple.“What a strange present,” he thought to himself. “The least they could have done was to send a highway with it, for it’s terribly impractical without one.” But since, at the time, there was nothing else he wanted to play with, he set up the three signs,SLOW DOWN APPROACHING TOLLBOOTHPLEASE HAVE YOUR FARE READYHAVE YOUR DESTINATION IN MINDAnd slowly unfolded the map.As the announcement stated, it was a beautiful map, in many colors, showing principal roads, rivers and seas, towns and cities, mountains and valleys, intersections and detours, and sites of outstanding interest both beautiful and historic.The only trouble was that Milo had never heard of any of the places it indicated, and even the names sounded most peculiar.“I don’t think there really is such a country,” he concluded after studying it carefully. “Well, it doesn’t matter anyway.” And he closed his eyes and poked a finger at the map.“Dictionopolis,” read Milo slowly when he saw what his finger had chosen. “Oh, well, I might as well go there as anywhere.”He walked across the room and dusted the car off carefully. Then, taking the map and rule book with him, he hopped in and, for lack of anything better to do, drove slowly up to the tollbooth. As he deposited his coin and rolled past he remarked wistfully, “I do hope this is an interesting game, otherwise the afternoon will be so terribly dull.”

From Our Editors

First published in 1961, The Phantom Tollbooth has been compared to Alice in Wonderland and it has many of the same fantastic elements. But rather than reveling in nonsense, The Phantom Tollbooth is always quite sensible, if a bit esoteric. This is the cautionary tale of Milo, who is bored by everything. One day, Milo receives a mysterious gift: "ONE GENUINE TURNPIKE TOLLBOOTH." This conduit takes Milo on a journey through a land of allegorical amazements, a kind of Pilgrim's Progress for the intellectual. Milo arrives in (and thankfully goes beyond) Expectations. He finds his way out of the Doldrums and picks up Tock, the literal watchdog. They soon meet the estranged kings of Dictionopolis and Digitopolis, who are arguing about which are greater: words or numbers. The kings have banished their stepsisters, the princesses Rhyme and Reason, to a castle in the air. But without these excellent mediators, there can be no peace in the kingdoms! So Milo, Tock and the loveable, pompous Humbug battle through strange lands like Ignorance and Conclusions (you get there by jumping) and encounter odd characters like the horrible Trivium on their quest to rescue Rhyme and Reason. The wry humour, good sense and gymnastic wordplay involved here bears reading again and again, especially a few years after the last attempt. This is, above all, a reminder not to let your mind wander too far, because it might never come back.

Editorial Reviews

" I read [The Phantom Tollbooth] first when I was 10. I still have the book report I wrote, which began 'This is the best book ever.'"
--Anna Quindlen, The New York Times

"A classic... Humorous, full of warmth and real invention."
--The New Yorker