Title: The Phantom Tollbooth
Published: Collins, 1999
Purchased: Brian Ameringen, 2004-05-01, £2.00
This book is almost as old as I am, being originally copyright in 1961. As a child, I loved this book, and I bought this new(ish) edition to see if the magic was still there.
I'm happy to report that, for the most part, it is. It's a wonderful, whimsical story that takes place when Milo, a bored child, mysteriously receives a tollbooth. This is already a somewhat surreal happening - a tollbooth is a remarkably prosaic yet simultaneously deeply unlikely thing to appear in a child's room. Yet Milo, after brief wonderment at the point of a tollbooth without a motorway, gets in his toy car, pays the toll, and enters the Kingdom of Wisdom.
Alas, all is not right in the Kingdom - the rules of Dictionopolis and Digitopolis (the cities of words and numbers) have banished Rhyme and Reason (their sisters) and the place is full of problems. Not to mention deliciously literal denizens. Unsurprisingly, it falls to Milo, the Watchdog (a god with the body of a watch) and the Humbug to go save the situation.
The interesting thing is that the book, by a New England author, has been subtly translated. 'colours' are spelt thus. It is a 'motorway' whose absence Milo briefly bemoans. And yet, the title item, something that doesn't appear on British motorways (well, not till recently, and certainly not when the book was written) is the tollbooth itself.
Still, that's mild pedantry on my part. I got the idea as a child, roughly, and I'm very happy to have picked this up.