La Caseta Magica (the Phantom Tollbooth)

ISBN: 0613858581
ISBN 13: 9780613858588
By: Norton Juster

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About this book

Milo mopes in black ink sketches, until he assembles a tollbooth and drives through. He jumps to the island of Conclusions. But brothers King Azaz of Dictionopolis and the Mathemagician of Digitopolis war over words and numbers. Joined by ticking watchdog Tock and adult-size Humbug, Milo rescues the Princesses of Rhyme and Reason, and learns to enjoy life.

Reader's Thoughts

Everett Hanson

This is my favourite book that I have read so far. When I start reading, I just could not stop. One of my favourite parts is how creative the author is with the world Milo is in. My favourite character is Tock the watchdog; I like how he has a real clock mounted onto him. Another great thing about this book is that with a different type of world come perfect places to make hilarious jokes. For an example, the Mathmagician (the king of Digitopolis, the kingdom of numbers) got mad and started adding up anger and multiplying wrath.

Sean DeLauder

Main character Milo is an unfortunate child weighed down by the burden of a tedious existence, flitting reluctantly from one state of ennui to another, which says something about himself. To wit, in the words of Harvey Danger, "If you're bored, then you're boring." So it's unlikely he would have a safety net of friends who might help him out of this state, and parents seem largely absent.Where a contemporary cure for the unfortunate Milo would probably involve expensive medication prescribed by the expensive psychiatrist receiving gratifying kickbacks for the medication prescribed, Milo is miraculously blessed instead by the fantastic. And thank goodness, because the likelihood of the former solving anything (for Milo, anyway) seems doubtful.And herein lies the wonderment of children's literature--the ability to escape to a place where they can heal themselves of the injuries they receive in reality and patch up the holes in their hearts from errant arrows. Childhood isn't so far removed that I can't remember the sense of safety that came from escaping into a fantasy world where the resolution to problems came with the turn of a page. This book is not only for Milo, it's also for the children suffering in the same fashion as Milo.Literature that can hide something profound within a shell of simplicity always gets my approval. Children's literature is predisposed to this possibility based solely upon its audience. But a smart author like Juster knows a clever work can succeed on multiple levels, pretending to be a work directed solely at children while having a pertinent message they can take with them to adulthood, and The Phantom Tollbooth does so by giving meaning to the innumerable cliches and patterns of behavior that make up our world, and shining a light on their absurdity and the ridiculous caricature one becomes when they exist for a singular purpose or belief. By pointing out the ridiculousness of a world built out of cliches, turns of phrase turned literal, and puns come to life, one ought to see how silly it is to view the world from a singular perspective or as one that exists in black and white, right and wrong, and all the other false dichotomies zealots and equally ignorant people believe in, as well as the problems it creates. Notably, the absence of Rhyme and Reason.All the myriad dullnesses of the educational process that bore Milo in reality are brought to fascinating life in a fantasy world that invigorates him and rekindles his curiosity--the very spark of life.Milo takes the transition from reality to fantasy very much in stride and with characteristic glumness, and we get a glimpse of just how far he has fallen from engaging in the world. Gladly, Milo regains his sense of wonder in starts and spurts, until it has been completely restored. This is, to my mind, a fabulous recovery, and a resurrection in its own right worthy of praise and relief. There is nothing more depressing than a child lost to depression, and few things more gratifying than seeing a sense of purpose restored.The story is rife with puns (though, as stated, not without purpose), something acceptable for younger audiences but something I find appalling and corny, but the story itself is compelling and never sits still long enough for the reader to become bored, maintaining a continuous train of thought despite its restlessness. In this, the story has an advantage over me.Despite never having read this as a child, even though I should have, I feel confident in assuming I would have liked it then, probably more than I do now. As it stands, I feel obliged to deduct 0.01 stars for each year I am removed from childhood, which, ultimately and as designed, shouldn't have any sort of effect for a good long time.If you're looking for an equally good feeling story of redemption and self improvement, but in a much shorter form, I strongly suggest Juster's The Dot and the Line.


This is such a sweet book, but full of genuinely profound lessons. I read this on the recommendation of my 14 year old daughter who remembers it fondly from grade school. I thank her for the suggestion -- I loved the story of Milo & his friends Tock & the Humbug. I would recommend this for any child reading independently (younger readers may need some gentle guidance with some of the concepts & humor, which isn't dumbed down in the least), but also for any adult looking for a quick read that is also meaningful.


This book is: Fantastic! Marvelous! Fabulous! Stupendous! Incredible! Thus would be the reaction of the cabinet of King Azaz the Unabridged of the Kingdom of Dictionopolis. In The Phantom Tollbooth, we find the meaning of such statements as “It goes without saying”, and “Half-baked ideas”. We learn what might be the best kind of sentence you can get from a police officer. We are taught the rules of The Doldrums: one being that you’re only allowed to smile slightly every other Thursday. And perhaps most importantly, we find out that you really do have to eat your words—so be careful what you say! The characters are fantastic! There’s a ‘Watch’ Dog, a ‘Which’, ‘Lethargians’, a Senses Taker, and many more! Milo, our ‘hero’, takes a ride through this strange land and tries to save Rhyme and Reason (did you know they were people?) from the Castle in the Air (don’t we all have one of those?). Fun for all ages, although you may not want to read this at bedtime, as I did, as it made us giggle more than yawn! From 2010:Josh is actually reading this one to himself right now, but I thought I'd add it anyway... Maybe I'll even put his review up! :)Josh's Review:You SHOULD read this one! It has all kinds of situations, like when the main character got a little gift. It was called The Phantom Tollbooth. It was magic and could take you to countries you would never know about!

Ben Siems

Having spent much of this winter in less than wonderful health, I have been happily accepting donations of reading material from friends. One friend, on a lark, dropped off her copy of this old classic, which I last read probably at age 13 or so.In re-reading it, I was reminded of the ambivalence I had about it on my first read back then. The level of cleverness is indeed impressive, at times dazzling, and for certain there are some fantastically humorous moments. It is also nice to read a morality tale with a message not of piety or "thou shalt nots," but rather of the fundamental importance of knowledge and openness to the lessons the world has to teach. At that, there is no doubt that this book has a beautiful heart, and I can hardly imagine any youth being anything but positively influenced by it.That being said, more than once on this read, I was reminded of Edgar Allen Poe's famously ruthless critique of allegory as a literary style: "The best than can possibly be achieved is awakening in the reader a vague sense of being impressed by how well something was done that never should have been attempted in the first place." Certainly, there are times when Juster's allegorical style is strained and even forced to the point of being a tedious read. It is probably a price worth paying on a first read of the book for the many lovely things the story has to offer, but also a very good reason to read The Phantom Tollbooth only once in one's life.


Norton Juster’s Phantom Tollbooth is a comical exploration of wordplay through the eyes of child. Bored of life, Milo receives a package containing a make believe tollbooth which transports him to the Lands Beyond in a world of imagination. Joined by companions including Tock, a time-keeping watchdog and the reluctant Humbug, who is hardly ever right about anything, Milo explores Dictionopolis, where they are asked to eat their words for dinner with King Azaz the Unabridged, who presides over the letters and words. King Azaz explains that in order to restore order in the chaotic Kingdom, Milo must rescue Princess Rhyme and Princess Reason from imprisonment in the Castle in the Air. Milo and friends embark on an adventure based on the literal translation of common figures of speech and playful puns, so they head for the city of Digitopolis, the land of numbers where they hope to persuade the Mathemagician to release the Princesses. Adventures along the happen at such places as at the Point of View and the twin cities of Reality and Illusions. Chance meetings take place with Chroma, who conducts the orchestra through the colours of sunset in the Valley of Sound and the Senses Taker, who slows them down with meaningless questions and demands trivial information. Swimming back to shore through the Sea of Knowledge, they reach Digitopolis, where Milo convinces the Mathemagician to release the Princesses. Flying over the Mountains of Ignorance, they are supported by armies of Wisdom to protect them from demons and ensure a safe return. Adventure over, Milo finds himself back home and the magical Tollbooth gone. In its place is a note explaining that he has learned so much, daily life is far from boring and there are lots of adventures to have, even in his own bedroom. Just as captivating now as when it was written fifty years ago, Juster’s use of subtle and sometimes silly humour takes the reader on a thought-provoking and philosophical adventure, using an ‘Alice In Wonderland’ concept on a journey of language discovery. Every chapter contains an important life lesson. For example, the trio lose precious time after a short detour to the Island of Conclusions, which they jump to after making assumptions about their trip. Throughout the story, Milo learns that the more he pays attention to his new surroundings, incredible detail is revealed in the world around him. Aimed at at an older, primary age range between eight and eleven years old, some of the vocabulary and literary devices may be hard to understand, but serve as a good first introduction to linguistics and can be followed up with a variety of games and activities to develop English language skills. Good for either individual or guided reading in the classroom, the inclusion of a detailed map of the Kingdom of Wisdom on the inside cover is a good visual aid for children to keep track of the storyline which has a tendency to move around. Dianna Wynne Jones‘ introduction provides a supportive analysis for readers who maybe unaware of Norton Juster’s previous work. Many children’s movies include subtle humorous references to keep parents entertained too and this book is the literary equivalent. Begging to be re-read time and time again, “The Phantom Tollbooth” has automatic appeal to anyone with a playful nature or lover of the intricacies of the English language. Any teacher should consider this tale as an exploration of literature in the purest form with many possibilities to exercise the imagination and if you haven‘t, what are you waiting for?


I've read this book many times, starting when I was about nine years old, and never have I been disappointed by it. It's a great story of a young boy, Milo, who just can't get excited about anything in life. One day, Milo embarks on an adventure by driving through a mysterious phantom toolboth that arrives for him through the mail. Through his journey, he learns the importance of thought and learning as he tries to rescue Princesses Rhyme and Reason and restore them to their throne (don't you love the word play?).


Milo is bored with living, he rushes to get places but once he is there he wonders why he even bothered. He can't seem to help that he finds everything so droll. That changes when he finds a mysterious tollbooth kit and decides that since he has nothing better to do he will build it, and that is when the real adventure begins.From the very first sentence of this book I was hooked. I knew that this was exactly the sort of book that I would enjoy and I absolutely loved all the phrases and sayings that when taken literally cause hysterics in the reader. I had been seeing this book everywhere lately, it was referenced in books, recommended to me by friends and finally I got the hint and checked it out from the library. What I was expecting was remarkably different from what I read, but it was oh-so-much-better. Every page had a little piece of wit that if you weren't carefully watching out for, you'd miss entirely. The Phantom Tollbooth was a book that taught you why things were important all the while cleverly hiding them in a seemingly harmless story tale. This was the sort of book that when reading you would burst out laughing and have an urge to find someone, anyone so that you could read them the clever little line that was so spectacular. The Phantom Tollbooth is a supremely awesome book, far superior to a lot of the rubbish they publish nowadays.*Taken from my book reviews blog:


This is an alltime favorite of mine.My fifth-grade teacher, Miss Shannon, read it to the class chapter by chapter and I was so absorbed in the story I cajoled my grandma into buying me a copy so I wouldn't have to wait for the next day's reading time. I recently re-read it with my kids and they loved it, too. The humor (downright Monty Python-esque in places) and vocabulary was a bit over their heads but they still got into it. Seriously, what's not to love about a talking dodecahedron?Highly recommended for adults and kids over perhaps age 8 or so.

Christy Stewart

I think this is the only school book I liked.Puberty had just taken effect and so I was tripping my balls off on hormones: "My boobs hurt. There is blood on my panties. I hate everyone. Does that dog have a clock on it?"


"In this box are all the words I know," he said. "Most of them you will never need, some you will use constantly, but with them you ask all the questions which have never been answered and answer all the questions which have never been asked. All the great books of the past and all the ones yet to come are made with these words. With them there is no obstacle you cannot overcome. All you must learn to do is use them well and in the right places.""And remember also," added the Princess of Sweet Rhyme, "that many places you would like to see are just off the map and many things you want to know are just out of sight or a little beyond your reach. But someday you'll reach them all, for what you learn today, for no reason at all, will help you discover all the wonderful secrets of tomorrow." When I started to re-read The Phantom Tollbooth a few weeks ago, I was very excited, but I was also a little bit nervous. I have a special, uncritical reverence for this book, the sort that you can only really have for books you read when you were very young. I remember every picture in this book, and I remember it being filled with words and numbers and quite a lot of joy. It was lovely. I was afraid that a re-read as an adult would leave me feeling as if it wasn't as good as I remembered (or, maybe worse, that I've just grown up into a grumpy cynic). But instead I was greeted with the pleasant surprise that The Phantom Tollbooth is still wonderful, and - without me realizing it, really - I think it had a huge determining course on who I wound up being as a person. I can't tell you how many times I came across sections that I probably didn't even entirely understand the first time through, but which are now really central and important to me. The second quote up there is pretty much a longer version of one of my absolute favorite quotes as an adult.The Phantom Tollbooth is funny and sad and hopeful. There are loads of puns that should be kind of dumb, but instead are endearing and fun. It's full of reverence for words and their potential power, and its just imbued all the way through with a wonder for absolutely everything in the world. Go read it! It's the best.


The adventure of Milo and Tock, who is a watchdog - literally! Great play on words, makes you think about the word you use and how they're used. Loved the drawings by Jules Feiffer, too!Some of my favorite quotes:"Expectations is the place you must always go to before you get to where yoy're going" - Whether Man"The Doldrums are where nothing ever happens and nothing ever changes." - the Lethargarians"You weren't thinking and you weren't paying attention either. People who don't pay attention often get stuck in the Doldrums." - the Lethargarians"Killing Time!" roared the dog, so furiously that his alarm went off. "It's bad enough wasting time without killing it.""Help you! You must help yourself." the dog replied."History is full of humbugs." - Humbug"A slavish concern for the compostion of words is the sign of a bankrupt intellect," roared the Humbug, waving his cane furiously."Brevity Is the Soul of Wit" - Official Which "An Ill-chosen Word Is the Fool's Messenger" "Silence is Golden""Things which are equally bad are also equally good. Try to look at the bright side of things." - Humbug"I didn't know that I was going to have to eat my words" objected Milo."Of course, of course, everyone here does," the king AZAZ the unabridges grunted. "You should have made a tastier speech.""There's nothing to it," said the Mathemagician "if you have a magic staff.""But it's only a big pencil," the Humbug objected, tapping at it with his cane."True enough," agreed the Mathemagician,"but once you learn to use it, there's no end to what you can do.""But why do only unimportant things?" asked Milo, who suddenly remembered how much time he spent each day doing them."Think of all the trouble it saves," the man explained, and his face looked as if he'd be grinning an evil grin - if he could grin at all, "If you only do the easy and useless jobs, you'll never have to worry about the important ones which are so difficult. You just won't have the time. For there's always something to do to keep you from what you really should be doing, and if it weren't for that dreadful magic staff, you'd never know how much time you were wasting." - Terrible Trivium, demon of petty tasks and worthless jobs, ogre of wasted effort, and monster of habit.Very imagnative read! The book felt like it was Dr. Seuss for tweens, young adult or just the young at heart!

Marie Lu

I don't remember much about this book, except that I loved it to pieces, and that the subtraction stew always made me really hungry.

Rajat Ubhaykar

After reading this book, I've decided that whosoever drilled it into our heads about puns being the basest form of humour can go screw himself. (no pun intended)


I wasn't as impressed with this book as many of my friends. Perhaps that is because of my high expectations for the book or perhaps because of my preferences in writing style. So those who love this book can use one of those two reasons to blow off my review. However, the fact remains that I was not very interested from page to page, and if not for a commitment to a book group, I am afraid I would not have had any desire to finish it.In style the book seems to be written for a particular age group ranging from 8-11, depending on the vocabulary and maturity of the reader. And, for the preteen sense of humor, the wordplay was appropriate and would be quite funny to the intended audience. However, the wordplay was really the only interesting aspect to the book, and I'm tempted to say as much for the joke books my niece reads to me. The plot was simple and was secondary to both the wordplay and the multiple morals of the story. In fact, a new moral was introduced with every chapter (some chapters containing more than one moral), and each chapter was only a few short pages long. This was the main drawback to the book. Not to say that morals aren't important in a work, but too many morals are detracting. Introducing, then immediately leaving a moral behind decreases the likeliness that it will be remembered once the book is finished. My other main problem with the book was the lack of description to help the reader enjoy the fantastical and quite creative world Juster introduces. Here one moment, and there the next, the reader is left wondering...How did Milo find his car again (he was lost only a moment ago)? Where are they? What do they see? This book, whose main moral is to teach a child to notice the world around them, simply forgot to take a look around. (The spectacular scene with Chroma and his orchestra being the exception.)Overall, an interesting book, leaps and bounds above the other children's literature of Juster's contemporaries, but not my favorite.

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