“There was once a boy named Milo who didn’t know what to do with himself — not just sometimes but always.”

This is the beginning of one of my favorite books, The Phantom Tollbooth. You may have seen the map in our exhibit in the Carnegie Room here at Central Library. Haven't seen the Fantasy Maps exhibit yet? Come to the Library!!

The Phantom Tollbooth is a book that I think is actually more enjoyable if you read it as an adult. I first read it when I was a child, and it didn't really seem that funny. Weird, yes. Funny? Not so much. When I got older, I read it again and it was much funnier because I actually understood the wordplay and the puns. 2011 marked the 50th anniversary of the book, and NPR had a really interesting bit from author Norman Juster. I was particularly struck by what he said here:

Not everyone in the publishing world of the 1960s embraced The Phantom Tollbooth. Many said that it was not a children's book, the vocabulary was much too difficult, and the ideas were beyond kids. To top it off, they claimed fantasy was bad for children because it disorients them.

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.

But my feeling is that there is no such thing as a difficult word. There are only words you don't know yet — the kind of liberating words that Milo encounters on his adventure.

As I mentioned, you can see the map in the book in our Fantasy Maps display. You may find copies of the book in our catalog --- take one home, enter the lands of Digitopolis and Dictionopolis with Milo, meet Tock and the Humbug, and have an absolutely wonderful adventure!

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