The Bottom Line
This fantasy explores what happens when a bored child goes on an adventure where not thinking can lead to danger and confusion! Puns, idioms, and word play throughout. Appropriate ages: 8 – 12 year olds
Buy the Phantom Tollbooth
• Higher reading level with 10 year old main character makes it inviting to advanced readers.
• Puns, idioms, and other word play keep the reader engaged and thinking.
• Appropriate for a family read-aloud because it appeals to a wider audience.
• A map of the Lands Beyond prepares the reader for the adventure and is an easy reference throughout the story.
• Younger children may not understand all the word play even if they can read the text.
• The length of the book may discourage some readers at first.
• Milo’s ennui is upset when he takes a chance on a journey to a strange land.
• Milo, the watchdog Tock, and the bumbling Humbug promise to rescue the princesses Rhyme and Reason so that order can be restored to Lands Beyond.
• He visits Dictionopolis and Digitopolis and learns about the argument between the ruling brothers of words and numbers, Azaz and the Mathemagician.
• Among other lessons, Milo and his companions learn the dangers of jumping to Conclusions and mistaking Illusions for Reality.
Kristine’s Review – The Phantom Tollbooth by Norton Juster
Milo takes a trip through a play tollbooth in his toy car because he is bored. He is soon joined by a friendly watchdog, Tock, and a lovable, but bumbling Humbug. Their adventure takes them through the troubled Lands Beyond where confusion and sloppy thinking abound. The trio sets out on a quest to rescue two princesses Rhyme and Reason to restore order to the kingdom and allow Wisdom to flourish. As the three journey, they meet interesting characters, and gain tools and insights that help them on meet their challenge. Puns, idioms, and other witty word play run rampant through the text adding fun and interest.
Family Reading Suggestions
As a read-aloud, you can help your children understand the word play in the story and share a chuckle over the puns. This will allow a child on the younger end of the appropriate age to better understand and enjoy the story. By reading this aloud to an older child who struggles with reading, you allow them to enjoy the word play in a way that would be lost if they tried to read the difficult text independently. This story can be read alongside independent readers. Be sure to check for understanding at various points and enjoy the humor of the puns together.
Beyond the Book
- Play an idiom game. There are several online options or make up your own!
- Use large appliance cardboard boxes to create your own tollbooth, and even the whole of Lands Beyond in your family room. This is a great way to involve the whole family – even those who are too young for the story.
- Play pictionary using idioms only.
- Try to eat one family meal without using any idioms. At another meal, talk only in idioms or puns.