Book Review: The Phantom Tollbooth

Author: Norton Juster
Language: English
Verdict: Still Deciding

If you ask me how I felt about this book, I am still deciding. I had this feeling after I watched Forrest Gump.

Anyways, before discussing the book, let me tell you how I stumbled upon this one.

You see, I was down with a bad mood for past couple of weeks, the fault goes to last few books I read. Don’t get me wrong, they were good books, but definitely sad and depressing. Thus, I started looking for something different, something joyful like an adventure in a far away land full of wonders. I asked many of friends, and to my despair all of them suggested something either about life or about death.

You know what, my hubby knew me better. Although he does read a lot of fictions, but he was able to find me this book.

I did not start with any expectation at all, just a light book to brighten up my mood. And my-o-my I was caught by surprise.

If I have to tell you how this book felt, I have to mention few other books, let’s take “Wizard of OZ” or “Alice in Wonderland” or “Chronicles of Narnia”. These books told us stories of young boys and girls, who went to far away lands and had adventures of their lives. These adventures were full of wonders. They are beautiful creations of pure imaginations.

On the other hand there are “Haw Jaw Baw Raw Law” by Sukumar Ray or “Buro-Angla” byAbanindranath Tagore or “Charlie and the Chocolate Factory” by Roald Dahl, and you will find imagination just a little bit contaminated by wisdom.

And in this particular book “The Phantom Tollbooth”, imagination and wisdom are so inter-tangled that it is hard to take them apart.

I don’t know now, how I would have felt, if I had read this book when I was young. As an adult, I can see how this book tells us about knowledge and ignorance, and how one is capable of great things if he or she sets the mind into. This book says that just a will to try something knock downs the first obstacle of impossibility-

“…what you can do is often simply a matter of what you will do”

Assuming something impossible at first-place, stops us from try it out.

“…so many things are possible just as long as you don’t know they’re impossible”

When I started the book, I was bored and I was tired. Milo, the protagonist, was also bored with his life at a very young age. I didn’t need to put a lot of effort in this book, since the mood resonated with my own. I also embarked in an adventure alongside Milo and Tock the watchdog and a bug named Humbug, while they started their quest to bring back two princesses Reason and Rhyme to the kingdom of Wisdom, from where her two brothers, the king of Dictionopolis and King of Digitopolis, banished them to the mountain of ignorance to live in the Castle in the Air.

Don’t read further if you want to read the book, next part of this review contains spoilers

Milo starts his journey at Doldrums and continues through Dictionopolis, where they harvest words and sell them in a great market. He meets Tock the watchdog, a bug named Humbug, a bee named spelling-bee, and a witch named Which and not to mention the great king Azaz.

They, Milo, Tock and Humbug, carry on their journey through Forest of Sight and Valley of Sound. Before they reach Digitopolis they once jump to Conclusion (an island) and come out of there after swimming the great Sea of Knowledge.

“… you can swim all day in the Sea of Knowledge and still come out completely dry. Most people do.”

From the mines of Digitopolis, where they dig out numbers, Milo and his two companions go to the Mountain of Ignorance to rescue princess Rhyme and prince Reason. They come across a few demons here and there, like Triple Demon of Compromise, Horrible Hopping Hindsight, Gorgons of Hate and Malice, Overbearing Know-it-all, Gross Exaggeration, Threadbare Excuse and many others.

The scariest of them all was the faceless demon of petty tasks and worthless jobs, ogre of wasted effort and monster of habit, who informed Milo the importance of not so important jobs.

“If you only do the easy and useless jobs, you’ll never have to worry about the important ones which are so difficult. You just won’t have the time. For there’s always something to do to keep you from what you really should be doing…”

However, from this journey Milo learned a lot, he learnt about the important aspect of a journey-

“… the most important reason of going from one place to another is to see what’s in between…”

He learnt about choices,

“Just because you have a choice, it doesn’t mean that any of them has to be right”

A thing or two about making mistakes

“You must never feel badly about making mistakes, …as long as you take the trouble to learn from them. For you often learn more by being wrong for the right reasons than you do by being right for the wrong reasons.”

The purpose of learning

“…but it’s not just learning things that’s important. It’s learning what to do with what you learn and learning why you learn things at all that matters.”

And most important of all he learnt to dig deep, without jumping to conclusion,

“It certainly pays to have a good look at things”.
It was a nice read, my mood is back up again and I am all set to try something new.
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