Nov. 14th, 2010

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Day 13 – Favorite childhood book OR current favorite YA book (or both!)

The Phantom Tollbooth by Norton Juster. I was relatively old when I read this one, admittedly. My friend recommended it to be in when I was 8, and I bought the book but never read it until middle school one day. I was bored and had nothing better to do. Perhaps that's why it spoke to me so much.

So there's this boy named Milo. He's bored, and he's already become an incredible little cynic at his young age. When he gets home one day, he finds a package left for him: a miniature tollbooth and a map. He drives through it and arrives in a world split by the divide between Dictionopolis and Digitopolis, ruled by Azaz the Unabridged and the Mathemagician respectively. They're brothers, but they hate each other, and together banished the Princesses Rhyme and Reason after they declared numbers and letters equally important. Milo's quest requires him to return Rhyme and Reason back home.

The brilliance of Tollbooth is that when Milo returns, he's infused with this abundant energy--he's not bored anymore, and neither is the reader. Comparisons to Alice in Wonderland do the book a injustice. Tollbooth's setting is similarly whimsical, but it's purpose is only to remind the reader, as it does Milo, that there's a big damn world out there, and it is fucking amazing. How Juster manages this with a bizarre fantasy world where the sunrise is performed by an orchestra is beyond me.

Norton Juster is a wordsmith, and that makes an otherwise simple story incredibly enjoyable even now when I inevitably pick the book up for a random re-read. The writing's lively, energetic, and so clever that neither the decades nor cynicism has dampened it any. Give it a shot. You won't be disappointed.

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