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Phantom Tollbooth by Norton Juster

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Pamela Kruger

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Transcript of Phantom Tollbooth by Norton Juster

The Phantom Tollbooth
Analysis
Presentation by
Pamela Kruger
LIBR 268
History of Youth Literature
San Jose State University
Professor Melba Tomeo

The Phantom Tollbooth
Edition used:
Special 35th Anniversary Edition, 1996
Norton Juster
Illustrations by Jules Feiffer
With an appreciation by Maurice Sendak
Random House, New York
Summary
fun fact
Short story as diversion
Juster received a Ford Foundation grant to write a children’s book about living in the city. He wrote
The Phantom Tollbooth
as a diversion (Marcus 2011). He never finished the book on children in the city.
Juster discusses his Accidental Masterpiece on National Public Radio (Juster 2011)
The story follows a boy Milo "who didn't know what to do with himself--not just sometimes, but always...When he was in school he longed to be out, and when he was out he longed to be in". Basically, he was bored with his life, until one day a mysterious package arrives with a tollbooth. Milo gets in a toy car rides through the tollbooth and sets off on an adventure. He travels to the Lands Beyond where he teams up with Tock a literal watchdog and guide Humbug. They visit different parts of the land to ultimately rescue the princesses Rhyme and Reason who were locked away by their feuding brothers the King Azaz and the Mathemagician (Juster 1996).
Biographies
Author biography
Norton Juster
Born June 2, 1929 In Brooklyn New York, currently lives in Amherst, MA
Studied architecture at University of Pennsylvania
Fulbright Scholarship to Liverpool
Served in the Navy 1954-1957
Worked as an architect in New York, then moved to Western, MA and opened own firm
Professor of architecture and design at Hampshire College and Pratt Institute in NY (Scholastic n.d.)

Illustrator biography
Jules Feiffer
Born January 26 1929 in Bronx, NY
Neighbor of Juster, and collaborated with drawings as
The Phantom Tollbooth
book was being written
Syndicated cartoonist for the Village Voice
Playwright and screenwriter
Won Pulitzer-Prize and Oscar (Hopwood n.d.)

fun fact

Norton Juster designed the Eric Carl Museum of Picture Book Art (Scholastic n.d.)
Historical and Social Context
Children’s literature in the late 1950s early 1960s
“The prevailing wisdom of the time held that learning should be more accessible and less discouraging. The aim was that no child would ever have to confront anything that he or she didn’t already know.”
-Norton Juster (2011)
“…this was 1961, critics said that fantasy was bad for children because it disoriented them.” -Norton Juster (Horning 2011)
A rivalry began between the United States, the Soviet Union, and their allies after World War II (Encyclopedia Britannica online, n.d.). This competition resulted in a weapons build-up, the space race and proxy wars. The two sides had different economies, ideas of personal freedom, and political systems .
The Cold War
A history of racial discrimination and segregation prompted mass protests in the mid-1950s. This racial inequality was rooted in the loss of slaves brought to the southern states and freed after the Civil War (1861-1865) (Encyclopedia Britannica online, n.d.).
Civil Rights Movement
Setting
The story is set in an unknown city and then in the Lands Beyond. Places in the Land Beyond: Expectations, The Doldrums, Foothills of Conclusions, Dictionopolis, Point of View, Forest of Sight, Illusions and Reality, Sound Keepers Fortress, Valley of Sound, Digitopolis, Numbers Mine, Island of Conclusions, Mountain of Ignorance, Sea of Knowledge, Castle in the Air all of which constitute the Kingdom of Wisdom.
Characters
Milo
A bored boy , about nine years old, who upon receiving a phantom toll both takes off on an adventure to the Lands Beyond.
Tock
A literal watchdog who assists Milo on his adventures. He is a wise friend who teaches Milo not to waste time.
Humbug
Is sent by King Azaz as a guide for Milo and Tock. Humbug is a giant beetle who likes to talk about himself.
King Azaz the Unabridged
Ruler of Dictionopolis, brother to Mathemagician and Princesses Rhyme and Reason. He is in a feud with his brother.
The Mathemagician
Ruler of Digitopolis, brother to King Azaz and Princesses Rhyme and Reason. He is in a feud with his brother.
Princesses Rhyme and Reason
The adopted sisters of the brothers King Azaz and Mathemagician who were banished from the Kingdom of Wisdom.
Milo, the protagonist is unknowingly on a quest to overcome his boredom and gain wisdom. He meets interesting people on the way that change his perception of the world. For instance, Alec Bing a boy who floats in the air and his feet grow down, teaches him about different points of view. The .58 child teaches him about averages. The climax comes when he fights off demons at the Mountains of Ignorance that tempt him into intellectual laziness. In the end he rescues Rhyme and Reason which symbolize wisdom.
major plot points
Themes
Exploration
Milo gets into a toy car, rides through a tollbooth to an unknown land. In the North American culture, the car is a symbol of freedom.
Challenge Authority
Milo and his companions meet many authority figures along their journey. The authority figures behave in foolish ways. Milo encounters absurdity and challenges it. For example, when they meet the Keeper of Sound, causing silence in her land because people did not appreciate the noises they heard. The citizens protest. Milo cunningly steals a sound and unleashes it out into the world, restoring noise once more.
Language
Words can have multiple meaning, depending on interpretation and context. The author uses puns and word play as a device to change the reader’s perception of the world. At the dining room scene the people “eat their words” and Milo rides in a car “that goes without saying”. This is a device used to break Milo and the reader of intellectual laziness, and add levity to the absurdity of some of the situations.
Wisdom
Milo starts out as an intellectually lazy and bored boy. Along his journey, he learns new ways of thinking. He learns to overcome ignorance, not jump to conclusions and the folly of half–baked ideas. In the end he restores wisdom by rescuing Rhyme and Reason.
“My father was great punster and loved wordplay.” --Norton Juster (Horning 2011)
Juster and Feiffer grew up watching Marx Brothers movies. They are full of word play, but also exhibited the same kind of foolishness that ultimately became logical. (Horning 2011)
According to Marcus (2011), Juster was influenced by Ernest Shepard and Kenneth Grahame's The Wind in the Willows (1908) to include a map entry.
The Phantom Tollbooth
is cited for changing the lives of Martha Minow, Harvard law professor and clerk to Thurgood Marshall; novelist Cathleen Schine, novelist Michael Chabon, and fantasy writer Diana Wynne Jones (Marcus 2011).
Influences
Reaction
Early Reviews
The good:
"..my first experienced of opening a book with no special anticipation and gradually becoming aware that I am holding in my hands a newborn classic, still sticky from its chrysalis."
-Emily Maxwell, New Yorker
November 12, 1961

“Most books advertised for ‘readers of all ages’ fail to keep their promise. But Norton Juster’s amazing fantasy has something wonderful for anybody old enough to relish the allegorical wisdom of Alice in Wonderland and the pointed whimsy of The Wizard of Oz”
-Ann McGovern, New York Times
November 15, 1961

The bad:
"...intensive and extensive fantasy, heavily burdened with contrivance and whimsy"
The bulletin of the Center for Children's Books (March 1962, vol. xv, no. 7 p. 112)

The respected Horn Book Magazine, where exclusions were never accidental, did not review
The Phantom Tollbooth
at all. (Marcus 2011)
The

Phantom Tollbooth
ranked #21 in the top 100 Chapter Books Poll by the School Library Journal. (Bird 2012)
Winner of the George C. Stone Centre for Children's Books Award (Scholastic n.d.)
Top 100, Classic Status
Made into a movie by MGM in 1970 and nationally touring musical in 2007 (Scholastic n.d.)
Sold over 3 million copies (Marcus 2011)
Canon of sentiment vs. significance
Stevenson (1997) discusses canons of sentiment and significance. The Sentimental canon exists when a book is loved and passed down to generations. It “favors books that comfort over books that challenge, books that reinforce the status quo over books that attempt to change it: it renders all books safe by their very inclusion therein….The most successful books in the canon of sentiment are those…which call forth affection both from the adult recalling a childhood reading… and from the child reading these books for the first time. The affection of the contemporary child enriches the adults’ experience of transmission, and the affection of the adult enhances the child’s experience by branding the books as classic and previously beloved.”

Significance or academic canon as Stevenson describes (1997) “exists to justify, document, chronicle or explain.” It is free from the notion of love and reminiscence of childhood experience. The canon of significance is reliant instead on its academic merit.

The Phantom Tollbooth
has sold over 3 million copies and recently celebrated 53 years in print. This means it has been passed down through three generations. It is a fantasy that deals with the quest for knowledge and wisdom in a mixed-up world. This is a notion that has yet to cease. This makes it fall squarely in the canon of sentiment. Like many works that are filled with humor,
The Phantom Tollbooth
was not seen as worthy of high honors. It has received no significant awards and was shunned by the academic community when it was first published.

Conclusion
The Phantom Tollbooth
is a book that appeals to so many because it is an adventure story in which the hero triumphs ignorance and boredom to gain wisdom. It can be a comfort, in a world that may seem overwhelming and incomprehensible to a child. As an adult, the story is also refuge from the insanity of the world. It was written during a time of world and domestic strife, where ideologies of race and politics were at odds. The use of word pay and puns offer both humor and insight. A reader can enjoy
The Phantom Tollbooth
at different stages in life. One can gain new understanding with maturity and changes in perception and humor. In a world that seems to have gone to pot, it is nice to take a journey with Milo and restore Rhyme and Reason.
References
(Eric Carle Museum of Book Art 2011)
Feuding Ideologies
The lands of words Dictionopolis and numbers Digitopolis have different world views. This is much like the struggles that were happening in the real world during the Cold War and American Civil Rights movement.
American Civil Rights Movement. (n.d.) In Encyclopedia Britannica online. Retrieved from http://www.britannica.com/EBchecked/topic/119368/American-civil-rights-movement

Biography Norton Juster. (n.d.) In Scholastic.com. Retrieved from http://www.scholastic.com/teachers/contributor/norton-juster

Bird, E. (2012, June 4). Top 100 Children’s Novels #21: The Phantom Tollbooth by Norton Juster. Retrieved from http://blogs.slj.com/afuse8production/2012/06/04/top-100-childrens-novels-21-the-phantom-tollbooth-by-norton-juster/

Bird, E. (2012, July 7). Top 100 Chapter Book Poll Results. Retrieved from http://blogs.slj.com/afuse8production/2012/07/07/top-100-chapter-book-poll-results/

Caldwell, K., & Gaine, T. (2000). "The phantom tollbooth" and how the independent reading of good books improves student's reading performance. Retrieved from http://www.eric.ed.gov.mantis.csuchico.edu/contentdelivery/servlet/ERICServlet?accno=ED449462

Center for Children's Books (1962, March) vol. xv, no. 7 p. 112.

Cold War. (n.d.) In Encyclopedia Britannica online. Retrieved from http://www.britannica.com/EBchecked/topic/125110/Cold-War

Hopwood, J. (n.d.) Jules Feiffer; Biography. IMDb.com. Retrieved from http://www.imdb.com/name/nm0270547/bio?ref_=nm_ov_bio_sm

Horning, K. (2011). The buddy system. School Library Journal, 57(10), 38-41.

Juster, N. (2011 October 25). My accidental Masterpiece: The Phantom Tollbooth. NPR books. Retrieved from http://www.npr.org/2011/11/10/141240217/my-accidental-masterpiece-the-phantom-tollbooth

Juster, N. (2011) The annotated phantom tollbooth; Introduction and notes by Leonard S. Marcus. New York, NY: Alfred A. Knopf.

Juster, N. (1996). The phantom tollbooth. New York, NY: Random House.

Liu, J. (2011, May 8). Michael Chabon Celebrates The Phantom Tollbooth—And so Should you (GeekDad Weekly Rewind) Wired.com. Retrieved from http://www.wired.com/geekdad/2011/05/michael-chabon-celebrates-the-phantom-tollbooth-%E2%80%94-and-so-should-you-geekdad-weekly-rewind/

Maxwell, E. (1961, November 12) The smallest giant in the world, and the tallest midget. The New Yorker. p. 222.

McGovern, A. (1961, November 15) Journey to wisdom. The New York Times Book Review. p. 35.

Posts Tagged ‘The Phantom Tollbooth’; Picture Book Puzzler: Lands Beyond. (2011, November 21). Retrieved from Shop Talk: Connecting people and picture books. Carlemuseum.org Retrieved from http://www.carlemuseum.org/blog/?tag=the-phantom-tollbooth

Stevenson, D. (1997) Sentiment and significance: The impossibility of recovery in the children’s literature canon or, the drowning of the water-babies. The Lion and the Unicorn. Baltimore, MD: John Hopkins University Press. 21:1. Retrieved from https://sjsu.desire2learn.com/content/enforced/158609-2134_49430/Final%20Projects/Stevenson.pdf?_&d2lSessionVal=yWuIkF7cWshNUtneM3oLQiC5l

The 50th anniversary of The Phantom Tollbooth [Video file]. Retrieved from Youtube. [due to Prezi formatting unable to past link]

The Phantom Tollbooth Trailer (1970) [Video file]. Retrieved from Youtube. . [due to Prezi formatting unable to past link]

The Eric Carle Museum of Picture Book Art. Retrieved from http://www.carlemuseum.org/Home
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