• Reflective Resources

The Phantom Tollbooth by Norton Juster

I discovered ‘The Phantom Tollbooth’ by Norton Juster as teacher when looking to find a different way to enrich the language and knowledge of grammar of my class rather than the usual formal exercises.


There was once a boy named 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. On the way he thought about coming home, and coming home he thought about going. Wherever he was he wished he were somewhere else, and when he got there he wondered why he’d bothered. Nothing really interested him—least of all the things that should have. “It seems to me that almost everything is a waste of time,” he remarked one day as he walked dejectedly home from school. “I can’t see the point in learning to solve useless problems, or subtracting turnips from turnips, or knowing where Ethiopia is or how to spell February.” And, since no one bothered to explain otherwise, he regarded the process of seeking knowledge as the greatest waste of time of all.

 Norton Juster, The Phantom Tollbooth


Milo, continues to be bored until he receives an unusual package one day: a make- believe tollbooth. He drives through it in his electric toy car, and is suddenly transported to a fantastic world of imagination and the lands of words and numbers Dictionopolis and Digitopolis . Milo encounters all sorts of unusual people and places and learns about the importance of all sorts of things and learns that there is never an excuse to be bored as there are all sorts of adventures just waiting everywhere if one looks


Although this is written for children the rich vocabulary and metaphors in it and meaningful issues raised are equally as relevant for adults


“But it’s not just learning things that’s important. It’s learning what to do with what you learn and learning why you learn things at all that matters.”  Norton Juster, The Phantom Tollbooth



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