A children's book blog by Miriam Rainwater

A children's book blog by Miriam Rainwater

"TV. If kids are entertained by two letters, imagine the fun they'll have with twenty-six. Open your child's imagination. Open a book." ~ Author Unknown

Sunday, April 3, 2011

The Phantom Tollbooth

Milo is a typical school-aged boy who 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." He didn't see the point, that is, until he received a surprise box labeled "ONE GENUINE TURNPIKE TOLLBOOTH." After he decides to take his toy car through the booth, strange yet wonderful things begin to happen.

The Phantom Tollbooth  by Norton Juster was originally published in 1961. Back in January, the children's classic was released in Kindle edition. Children will love the story of Milo and his visit to Dictionopolis, the city where all of the words in the world are homegrown. In that mysterious land, he meets the Whether Man, travels through The Doldrums, and makes friends with a watchdog named Tock (whose body is a huge alarm clock). In the Word Market, Milo receives a greeting from the "Emperor of Phrases, Sentences, and Miscellaneous Figures of Speech" and gets put in jail for jumbling all the words together. In jail, they meet a Which, who sends to rescue the twin Princesses, Rhyme and Reason, from the Mountains of Ignorance.

This book is full of surprises at every turn. First there's the tallest, shortest, fattest, thinnest man. Then there's the Isle of Conclusions, a place you can easily jump to. The book personifies such abstract concepts as statistics, like the half a child that Milo meets who represents the fact that the average family has 2.58 children. And what about the boy that grows down rather than up simply because he chooses to take an unique Point of View?

Some parents may wish to be aware that Demons are mentioned several times in the book, but the Demons turn out to be loathsome creatures that are only pretending to be bad in order to cover up how small and helpless they are against people who don't agree with them. From them, children see how little it pays off to be insincere, afraid, or ignorant and how easily Wisdom conquers Foolishness.

Among the lessons learned from this book include the fact that "people who don't pay attention often get stuck in the doldrums," "time is our most valuable possession," and "you must pick your words very carefully and be sure to say just what you intend to say."

The Phantom Tollbooth is a hilarious satire that can be enjoyed by readers of all ages, including parents. While making them laugh, the book will teach your children rules of grammar and syntax and context as well as statistics and angles and infinity through a crazy tale of one boy's mission to bring Wisdom to the fictitious world beyond the Phantom Tollbooth. After all, "so many things are possible if you just don't know that they are impossible."

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