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The Phantom Tollbooth

by

The Phantom Tollbooth Cover

 

 

Excerpt

Chapter I: Milo

There 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 TOLLBOOTH
PLEASE HAVE YOUR FARE READY
HAVE YOUR DESTINATION IN MIND
And 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 the Hardcover edition.Copyright 1988 by Norton Juster

What Our Readers Are Saying

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Average customer rating based on 12 comments:

Laura Rakestraw, October 21, 2014 (view all comments by Laura Rakestraw)
One of my favorites from childhood. And adulthood. It never gets old.
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Paul K, January 27, 2014 (view all comments by Paul K)
I can almost definitively say that this book sparked my curiosity in the world, and led me to start thinking about everything in a new way. And today I am getting my PhD in Neuroscience, so clearly this book molds young minds into scientist patterns. Clearly. But seriously, this is a book about puns and words and math, but it is fun and imaginative and, though it was written 50 years ago, still very relevant to life today. I think all children should read this book, or have it read to them by an adult before bedtime.
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Eric Hamell, December 2, 2012 (view all comments by Eric Hamell)
This was the first sizable book I ever read, at age eight. It definitely helped stimulate my intellect, probably because by concretizing abstractions, it made it easier to think about them.
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Product Details

ISBN:
9780394820378
Author:
Juster, Norton
Publisher:
Random House (NY)
Illustrator:
Feiffer, Jules
ill.:
Feiffer, Jules
Author:
Feiffer, Jules
Author:
Various
Location:
New York :
Subject:
Children's fiction
Subject:
Classics
Subject:
Action & Adventure
Subject:
Science Fiction, Fantasy, & Magic
Subject:
Children's 9-12 - Fiction - Fantasy
Subject:
Fantastic fiction
Subject:
Fantasy
Subject:
Children's stories, American
Subject:
Fantasy fiction
Subject:
Puns and punning
Subject:
Action & Adventure - General
Subject:
Fantasy & Magic
Subject:
Imaginary places
Subject:
Situations / General
Subject:
Childrens classics
Copyright:
Edition Number:
35
Edition Description:
Anniversary
Series Volume:
125
Publication Date:
19881031
Binding:
TRADE PAPER
Grade Level:
from 5 up to 8
Language:
English
Illustrations:
Y
Pages:
272
Dimensions:
7.15x5.24x.70 in. .39 lbs.
Age Level:
08-12

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Related Subjects


Children's » Action and Adventure » Adventure Stories
Children's » Classics » General
Children's » Featured Titles
Children's » Middle Readers » General
Children's » Science Fiction and Fantasy » General
Children's » Staff Picks

The Phantom Tollbooth New Trade Paper
0 stars - 0 reviews
$6.99 In Stock
Product details 272 pages Lectorum Publications - English 9780394820378 Reviews:
"Review" by , "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.''"
"Review" by , "A classic... Humorous, full of warmth and real invention."
"Synopsis" by , Illustrated in black-and-white. This ingenious fantasy centers around Milo, a bored ten-year-old who comes home to find a large toy tollbooth sitting in his room. Joining forces with a watchdog named Tock, Milo drives through the tollbooth's gates and begins a memorable journey. He meets such characters as the foolish, yet lovable Humbug, the Mathemagician, and the not-so-wicked "Which," Faintly Macabre, who gives Milo the "impossible" mission of returning two princesses to the Kingdom of Wisdom.
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