The Phantom Tollbooth is a children’s modern fairy tale about a bored young boy named Milo who unexpectedly receives a magic tollbooth one afternoon and, having nothing better to do, decides to drive through it in his toy car. The tollbooth transports him to a land called the Kingdom of Wisdom. There he acquires two faithful companions, has many adventures, and goes on a quest to rescue the princesses of the kingdom–Princess Rhyme and Princess Reason–from the castle of air. The text is full of puns, and many events, such as Milo’s jump to the Island of Conclusions, exemplify literal meanings of English language idioms.
As a lover of puns and word play, I thought this book was engaging, fun and witty. I found myself annotating in the margins, with a dictionary by my side to look up all the idioms and multiple meanings used within the text. If I have any complaints, it would be that at times the book seemed to be teaching lessons to readers, warning about boredom and apathy. Most of the time I agreed with the books “think for yourself, and don’t be lazy” message, but even so It felt slightly pushy. Despite this, I really enjoyed the book and would recommend it.
I would especially recommend this book to children who enjoy reading. I think they would relate to the puns and love of literature that the book presents. I also think it might encourage readers who may be bored or unchallenged in school to apply themselves.