Tuesday, October 17, 2017

The Phantom Tollbooth, by Norton Juster

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Nothing interests Milo. Milo has a ton of toys and books in his room. Milo's parents are not really mentioned in the book, but they sure do seem to buy him a lot of things. But Milo is always wanting more. However, when he gets it, he very quickly doesn't want it anymore. Milo is never satisfied. 

Then one day, a huge package appears in his room. Who left it? Milo opens the package, and inside it, there is some kind of D.I.Y. building kit. Milo decides to build it because, he figures, there are no other things worth doing. (Well, actually there are, but he doesn't want to do any of them.) 

He finishes building the mystery item, and it turns out to be some kind of large... tollbooth. Milo drives through in his toy electric automobile, because he has nothing better to do. On the other side there is a strange new land, with places such as Digitopolis (the city of numbers), Dictionopolis (the city of words), the "Island of Conclusions" (you get there by jumping), and many more. 

Milo meets a watchdog named Tock, the Humbug (a very unpleasant bug who always is saying the wrong thing at the wrong time), and people like the Mathematician (ruler of Digitopolis) and Azaz the Unabridged (king of Dictionopolis). Not to mention going to other places such as the Mountains of Ignorance and the Valley of Sound (which at the moment is completely silent). 

During this adventure Milo also must rescue the two princesses Rhyme and Reason, for they have been banished to the Castle in the Air, located in the Mountains of Ignorance, which is swarming with demons. It is in Dictionopolis where Milo first hears about Rhyme and Reason, who were able to solve all problems in ways that left everyone happy. Milo becomes interested in this quest -- it is something interesting to do!

By the end of the book, he realizes that he doesn't have to be unsatisfied all the time. There is much more to do in life than just sitting in his chair and waiting for the day to end. His quest ended, the Phantom Tollbooth disappears, as mysteriously as it appears. In its place, only a note, that begins:

Dear Milo: You have now completed your trip, courtesy of the Phantom Tollbooth. We trust that everything has been satisfactory and hope that you understand why we had to come and collect it.  You see, there are so many other boys and girls waiting to use it too...

The Phantom Tollbooth has nothing to do with phantoms. I'm pretty sure that some kids might get confused if I didn't put that out there. This is a great book, a lot like The Lost Track of Time, which I recently did a post onAnyway, this book must've been coated in a special kind of glue, because It was very, very hard for me to put it down, and I hope that it's the same for you too!


Daddy's afterthoughts: Originally, Julia had something in her conclusion that made reference to Doctor Who, suggesting that maybe this author was inspired by the TARDIS. However, this book was written in 1961, and Doctor Who started in 1963. But she's not altogether wrong, in that the "gateway to another world" is one of the all-time classic tropes in literature, cinema, and TV.

Let's see: The Wizard of Oz, Where the Wild Things Are, Stephen Donaldson's first and second Chronicles of Thomas Covenant the Unbeliever, The Chronicles of Narnia, Alice in Wonderland, the Magic Treehouse books (and the scores of young reader series like it)... and of course, Julia's most recent blog offering, Paige Britt's The Lost Track of Time.

But just because a trope is done a lot does not mean we should not appreciate it when it is done well. This is a classic book that all readers, 8-80, can enjoy.

Sunday, October 8, 2017

The Lost Track of Time, by Paige Britt

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Time. There's plenty of it. Especially free time. Unless you are Penelope. Her mother plans out every single thing Penelope is going to do every single day. No free time, at all! Until one day, Penelope finds a hole in her schedule. A big one. A whole day, nothing planned. Penelope wants to be a writer, so maybe she could write all day... But remember that huge hole? What do people do with holes? They fall in. And that is exactly what Penelope does.
Penelope falls into a mysterious land called "The Realm of Possibility." There she meets Dill, a young man who is an explorer. Dill tells her about the history of the Realm, how it was created by the Great Moodler, a woman who later disappeared when a man named Chronos took over. He had an army of Clockworkers, men and women who were devoted to serving him. Shortly after his takeover, he had his Clockworkers build clocks everywhere, and forced people to obey him. But before Chronos arrived, nobody cared about the time. Everyone simply... moodled. And what is moodling, you ask? Well, it is simply letting your mind wander. 

When Penelope meets Dill, they set out on a quest to find the Great Moodler and defeat Chronos, and on the way they will take an adventurous Flight of Fancy, push their way through the Naughty Woulds, and find various types of mushrooms. Penelope makes friends with the people and animals she finds in this strange new land. 

But Penelope needs to find the Great Moodler, because she wants to prove to her parents that writing is not a waste of time, but she can't, because she has writer's block. Only the Great Moodler, with her endless imagination, can help her.

Will she ever find the Great Moodler, and even if she does, how will Penelope ever get back home?

This is a truly fascinating story recommended for anyone who likes a seriously weird book. This book is a lot like The Phantom Tollbooth, with its "Island of Conclusions." In this book, the main character, Milo, has a lot of time on his hands (unlike Penelope!). He finds a tollbooth in his room, goes through and is transported to where he discovers a strange land, with places like "Dictionopolis" and "Digitopolis." What follows is a big adventure, which I'll tell you about in my next review!  

The Lost Track of Time will eventually let you go, that is, when you've finished the book, unlike the grip of time, which will never, ever, let you go.  


Daddy's afterthoughts:  A modern take on the classic Alice in Wonderland/Wizard of Oz/Narnia trope of falling through into another world to learn a life lesson, this book is a fun romp, with a Willy Wonka-esque/Oz-like sensibility. This book does pair well with The Phantom Tollbooth, so be on the lookout soon for her next posting!


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