Recommended by Graeme Humphries (Deputy Director – Administration and Marketing)

THE PHANTOM TOLLBOOTH by Norton Juster, illustrated by Jules Feiffer (1961)

Norton Juster, an Architect, was commissioned to write a book about cities but ended up writing a magical adventure story about a boy called Milo who thinks everything is boring and learning is the biggest waste of time. Milo is sent a mysterious tollbooth which takes him to “the Lands Beyond”, beginning in Dictionopolis (the city where all the letters in the world are bought and sold), where he is sent on a quest to free the Princesses Rhyme and Reason. On his adventure he is accompanied by a large talking dog called Tock, who has an alarm clock on each side (the Watchdog). The story is about learning to love learning and is full of characters whose words are more important than their meaning – the Whether Man for instance is unable to give Milo any information about the likelihood of rain but is happy to discuss whether there will be weather.

“Oh dear, all those words again,” thought Milo as he climbed into the wagon with Tock and the cabinet members. “How are you going to make it move? It doesn’t have a—”

“Be very quiet,” advised the duke, “for it goes without saying.”

And, sure enough, as soon as they were all quite still, it began to move through the streets, and in a very short time they arrived at the royal palace.

‘The Phantom Tollbooth’ (in Dictionopolis)

‘The Phantom Tollbooth’ is a children’s book which is full of verbal humour and wonderful characters making it perfect for parents and children to share. It is also the book which I found in my primary school library and which ignited my passion for reading.