The Phantom Tollbooth

Go read this. Please. Right now. If you love language (and the English language specifically) you should really stop reading this post and go read The Phantom Tollbooth. I’ll wait.

I loved the movie adaptation of this as a kid (and it was pretty good at capturing the feel of the book), so I decided that I needed to read it and thought that my son would enjoy it too. I read it to him out loud and I can’t wait for him to read it in 10 years and actually get it. At first glance it seems simplistic and even cheesy. But when you actually think about how he basically wrote a novel that is a play on plays on words…you realize that our language is a beautiful, complex beast, worthy of admiration and a throuough making fun of. It is really clever and since you will be reading it in the near future (if you didn’t listen to me earlier, go now) I’ll just give you some of my favorite lines to convince you that this book is so worth the little time it will take you to read it.


“Oh dear, all those words again,” thought Milo as he climbed into the wagon with Tock and the cabinet members. “How are you going to make it move? It doesn’t have a–” “Be very quiet,” advised the duke, “for it goes without saying.” (Talking about the car that is taking them to the banquet)

“The Mathemagician nodded knowingly and stroked his chin several times. ‘You’ll find,’ he remarked gently, ‘that the only thing you can do easily is be wrong, and that’s hardly worth the effort.”

“Now and then, though, someone does begin to grow differently. Instead of down, his feet grow up toward the sky. But we do our best to discourage awkward things like that.”
What happens to them?” insisted Milo.
Oddly enough, they often grow ten times the size of everyone else,” said Alec thoughtfully, “and I’ve heard that they walk among the stars.” (Alec, a boy who grows down and can only see through things…so he keeps walking into trees.)

“Since you got here by not thinking, it seems reasonable to expect that, in order to get out, you must start thinking.” (said by Tock, the watch dog [literally. his body is a clock and the great tragedy of his life is that he ‘ticks’ but doesn’t ‘tock’ and is thus misnamed] who is responsible for putting an end to the killing of time.)

“Have you ever heard a blindfolded octopus unwrap a cellophane-covered bathtub?”


This book made me laugh and it made my head explode and it made me smile. It made me want to hug the world and be a better person in the world. It made me want to gift wrap the book and give it to all the Milo’s that I know, that they might aspire to understand it or at least be inspired to understand something.

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