Audiobook Review: The Phantom Tollbooth

Audiobook Review: The Phantom TollboothThe Phantom Tollbooth by Norton Juster
Genres: Children's, Fantasy, Middle Grade
Published by Recorded Books on 1961
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For Milo, everything's a bore. When a mysterious tollbooth appears in his room, he drives through only because he's got nothing better to do. But on the other side, things seem different. Milo visits the island of Conclusions (you get there by jumping), learns about time from a ticking watchdog named Tock, and goes up against the dastardly Discord and Dynne. By the time Milo and Tock set off toward the Mountains of Ignorance to rescue the twin Princesses Rhyme and Reason, Milo realizes something astonishing. Life is far from dull. In fact, it's exciting beyond his wildest dreams...
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I remember watching this movie as a kid, and I always loved it. I’m not sure I’d ever read the actual book before. This is one of those books that is written at a children’s/middle grade level, but it’s so incredibly clever and entertaining that I think I enjoyed it even more as an adult. There was plenty of word play that I’m positive I couldn’t have understood as a child.

This is a great book for someone looking for another “Alice in Wonderland” adventure. It’s whimsical, charming, zany, and at times, quite frustrating. Milo just doesn’t care about…well, anything. He’s not a bad kid, he just isn’t interested in anything. So when a very large package mysteriously appears in his room that happens to hold an equally mysterious tollbooth with a tag that reads “For Milo, who has plenty of time”, Milo shrugs, and follows the directions that take him into another world. In this other world, he meets all sorts of people: The King of Dictionopolis, who believes words are the most important thing in the world; The Mathemagician of Digitopolis and the dodecahedron, who like to give Milo and his companions difficult math problems; Milo’s sidekick Tock, a watchdog, and the Humbug, who is the Negative Nancy of their crew. There are a host of other crazy characters, all who teach Milo important lessons as he goes about his quest to bring Rhyme and Reason back to the land.

There’s so much fun word play in The Phantom Tollbooth; there are characters like The Spelling Bee, who is literally a bee who spells all the time. There’s a doctor of sound named Kakophanous A. Dichord. There are lovely scenes where Milo watches an orchestra play the sunrise and the sunset.  And Milo goes through quite the character change; by the end of the book, he can’t believe all the things there are to do, and he can’t wait to do them all.

This audio book was narrated by Norman Dietz, who does a very nice job having zany and whimsical voices for the zany and whimsical characters he’s giving life to. It’s the perfect book to listen to because it’s so entertaining and funny and fun.

If you haven’t read The Phantom Tollbooth (or watched the movie, for that matter) you really need to read it. It appeals to readers of all ages and is wildly entertaining.

This book is filling the category “Published Pre-2000” for my Full House Reading Challenge (The Phantom Tollbooth was originally published in 1961).

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