The Phantom Tollbooth by Norton Juster

Read: 12 August, 2015

I’ve been aware of The Phantom Tollbooth for years, hearing from several friends that it was their first favourite book. Unfortunately, I was country-hopping at the age where I might have come across it organically or been assigned it in school, and so had never read before. Yet I knew of it, and picked it up when I found it at the thrift store.

I originally tried to read it to Kid, now that I’m transitioning him off from picture books at bedtime. That didn’t really work out, though. We only got about halfway through before he asked to read something else instead. And I can understand why – so many of the jokes either involve puns or knowledge that he hasn’t been exposed to, so all the humour was going right over his head. And without the humour, there isn’t really much left to the book.

But I’d made it halfway through, and I didn’t really want to abandon the reading entirely. So I decided to carry on on my own.

I quite enjoyed the book. The humour is right up my alley – with plenty of silliness, poking fun at adult convention, and loads of puns. As I said, there isn’t too much else besides that – the plot is flimsy at best, and the characters are either jokes or a blank slate to serve as a reader insert – but there doesn’t need to be. I can imagine the impact of reading this at 10-12, when the jokes would be more directly relevant.

It’s very playful and enjoyable, and a not too long read despite the stuffy British narration style.

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