West Virginia Book Festival

50 years of “The Phantom Tollbooth”

Ever wonder what kind of book leads someone down the path toward becoming a serious reader? For blog contributor (and Gazette editorial page editor) Dawn Miller, it was “The Phantom Tollbooth” by Norton Juster, with illustrations by Jules Feiffer. She writes:

It was such tough going at first I thought it was a grown-up book, which made me more determined to read it. Eventually I read as far as the spelling bee. The Spelling Bee was an actual man-sized insect that could spell anything, A-N-Y-T-H-I-N-G. He got into a fight where market stalls and people were toppled. In the disturbance, the main character, a boy named Milo, was knocked over and fell on the bee. The bee shouted, “Help! Help! There’s a little boy on me.”

To my 9-year-old ear, that was the wittiest thing I ever read. I was hooked.

In The New Yorker recently, Adam Gopnik talked with Juster and Feiffer as they, too, recalled their work of a half-century ago.