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Book Club Kits: The Phantom Tollbooth

Alamance County Public Libraries offer Book Club Kits for check out to area book clubs. Each kit contains 10 copies of a book and a reading guide.

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Norton Juster

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Book Summary

This quirky fantasy story reveals how a restless and precocious ten-year-old boy learns to appreciate the ordinary things in life after he embarks on a wondrous journey.

Milo is in a deep blue funk. Nothing and no one capture his interest. Boredom is Milo's middle name. The young boy is resigned to this state of affairs until he returns from school one day to find a package containing a giant toy tollbooth in his bedroom. When Milo puts the tollbooth together, and takes a ride on his toy car through the booth, a whimsical adventure begins. On this adventure, Milo visits Dictionpolis, the land of words, Digitopolis, the land of numbers, and meets an odd cast of characters along the way. The "watch" dog Tock, the Mathemagician, Officer Short Shift, and the Lethargarians are just some of Milo's new friends who show him how fascinating life can be.

The story's black-and-white drawings are enhanced by the exceptionally witty text. Readers will be entertained by the satire and humor here, and will learn the same timeless lesson Milo comes to understand — to cherish life's little wonders.

Read an excerpt from the book.

Discussion Questions

  • Why was Milo so quick to get in the car and pass through the Tollbooth? Do you think he was being foolish or just adventurous?

  • Why is it so important to rescue Rhyme and Reason? What would've happened – to Milo and to Wisdom – If they were never rescued?

  • Does The Phantom Tollbooth remind you of any other books you've read? If so, why? And if not, what makes it unique?

  • Is Milo a well-developed character? Is he a typical hero? Or is he just a stand-in for us as readers, who need to open up our minds to a world of learning and imagination?

  • What's your favorite pun in The Phantom Tollbooth? Why do you think the author uses so many puns anyway?

  • Why does Norton Juster focus on language and math. What about literature? What about sciences? And hey, what about recess?

  • If you could buy words, what words would you choose, and why? And how do you think those words would taste?

  • Which part of the Lands Beyond would you most like to visit? Which would you most like to avoid? Why?

  • Do you agree with Adam Gopnik that learning is the "real subject" of The Phantom Tollbooth AND all classic kids' books?

50th Anniversary of The Phantom Tollbooth