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Michael Chabon on The Phantom Tollbooth and wondrous words


Michael Chabon writes at length about Norton Juster’s masterpiece, The Phantom Tollbooth, in the New York Review of Books. The Phantom Tollbooth, which is illustrated by Jules Feiffer, will be 50 years old later this year and I find it hard to believe that there are still people who have not read it.

Chabon writes….

It was while reading The Phantom Tollbooth that I began to realize, not that I wanted to be a writer (that came a little later, at the mercy of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle), but something simpler: I had a crush on the English language, one that was every bit as intense, if less advanced, as that from which the augustly named author, Mr. Norton Juster, himself evidently suffered.

The Phantom Tollbooth is for anyone who loves words. The entire book is all about wordplay and each chapter is incredibly clever. Milo, our bored hero, meets Princess Rhyme and Princess Reason, the Spelling Bee, the Lethargarians who live in the Doldrums, and encounters pun after pun. I love his faithful companion, Tock the watchdog.

Critics say the book is too clever for young kids but I tend to disagree. Expose them to the magic of words while they are young.

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Richard Davies

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