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Off in the distance
my journal
May 2016

The Bellinghman
Date: 2004-05-09 23:17
Subject: 37: Norton Juster - The Phantom Tollbooth
Security: Public
Author: Norton Juster (Illustrated: Jules Feiffer)
Title: The Phantom Tollbooth
Genre: YA/Fantasy
Published: Collins, 1999
Pages: 250
Purchased: Brian Ameringen, 2004-05-01, £2.00
ISBN: 0-00-675425-2

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.
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Plastic Bertrand Russell
User: burkesworks
Date: 2004-05-09 23:18 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)
Wow! This was one of my favourites as a kid too, used to love this book, complete with jumping to Conclusions and not-so-wicked Whiches. Nice to see the new edition has kept the wonderful Feiffer illustrations too.
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The Bellinghman
User: bellinghman
Date: 2004-05-09 23:27 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)
There was this and another - Thurber's The Thirteen Clocks - that I particularly remember.
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User: beckyl
Date: 2004-05-10 06:59 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)
Both were fabulous - I may still have a copy of Thirteen Clocks, must check. It was a hardback, in combination with another story.
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Tim Illingworth
User: timill
Date: 2004-05-10 11:00 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)
Usually coupled with "The Wonderful O".
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User: beckyl
Date: 2004-05-10 12:06 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)
Yep, that was the beggar. I've since found that the book has gone from my shelves in one of my periodic clear-outs. Once there is more space, it can go on the 'new copy' list.
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User: megabitch
Date: 2004-05-10 09:01 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)
I remember watching the film in class when I was very young - it scared me :) Mind you, so did Chitty Chitty Bang Bang. Oddly, things like Dr Who didn't.

Anyway, the point to my comment was this:

Everytime I see "Genre: YA/Fantasy" I read it as "Genre: YAY! Fantasy" *giggle*
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User: rmc28
Date: 2004-05-10 15:17 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)
Ooh! That brings back memories. The Phantom Tollbooth was one of the books my primary school class were read. Wow.
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