Monday, January 18, 2010

Review #57: The Phantom Tollbooth

Dad:  Our latest bedtime storybook we worked through was "The Phantom Tollbooth" by Norton Juster.  Do you guys remember enough about The Phantom Tollbooth to talk about it?
Lily (age 6):  First, I have to tell everyone something.  This is a chapter book.
Dad:  You are right.  But there were pictures in it too.
Lily:  Yes.
Dad:  The pictures were by Jules Feiffer.  He's a pretty famous illustrator.  Is there anything you want to say about the pictures.
Gracie (age 9):  They were good.
Dad:  Alrighty then.
Lily:  The story is about a kid named Milo.
Gracie:  At the beginning of the book, he is the most bored kid on earth.  He has a thousand toys that he's never ever ever in his whole life used before.  But he thinks he has nothing to do.
Isaac (age 11):  Then this package comes, and in it there is a tollbooth.
Dad:  Do you guys even know what a tollbooth is?
Isaac:  Yeah.  When you go into a different state there are tollbooths, and you have to pay money.  In case you wreck the roads and stuff.
Gracie:  So Milo puts a coin in, and he takes a little car... and I don't know where he got the car... and he drives through the tollbooth.  And he goes to this crazy world.
Lily:  His room just had a red car in it.
Gracie:  I think it was a toy car he could drive.  A blue car.
Isaac:  No it was red.
Gracie:  Blue.
Dad:  Well, the pictures in the book were black and white...
Lily:  It was red.
Dad:  Let's check the story and see what it says...
Isaac:  Blue is not a good color for a car.
Gracie:  Blue is the perfect color for a 3 foot car.
Dad:  Here we go... Here's the answer... Ready?  The book says, "He looked glumly at all the things he owned... the small electric automobile he hadn't driven in months--or was it years..."  So what's the answer?
Lily:  Nothing.
Gracie:  It's blue!
Dad:  The answer is: The book doesn't give us a color.  It's whatever color it was in your imagination.
Isaac:  Red.
Gracie:  Isaac, schwatreuse would be a better color on that car.
Isaac:  There's no such thing as "schwa-treuse."
Dad:  You mean chartreuse?  I think you guys need some kind of "truce."  Since the author doesn't tell us in the book, then he intentionally wanted to leave it to your imagination.  Agreed?  It's blue to one person, red to the other, and that's okay.
Lily:  Purple.
Gracie & Isaac:  Purple!?!
Dad:  Okay, moving on...
Gracie:  Milo goes to this crazy world.  And he goes on a special mission to save Princesses Rhyme and Reason.  And he meets, like, 100 different crazy characters on the way.
Isaac:  Everything had become chaos, and everyone was fighting.  So they needed Rhyme and Reason back.
Lily:  Milo meets Tock.
Gracie:  My favorite character!
Lily:  He goes tick tick tick tick tick...  Tock is a dog with a clock on his side.
Gracie:  A watchdog!
Lily:  He is comforting.
Dad:  Tock is a good friend to Milo, isn't he.
Gracie:  If I had to have a dog with a giant watch attached to his stomach, I would definitely want Tock.  He's always trying to protect Milo.  And whenever he gets really mad or excited, his alarm goes off.
Dad:  Do you know what a "pun" is?
Isaac:  A word joke?
Dad:  Yep.  There were lots of pun-characters in this book, weren't there?  Like "watchdog."
Gracie:  A dog with a clock.
Dad:  And we know what a "spelling bee" is in real life.  But what was it in the book?
Lily:  A bee that spells everything.
Dad:  Okay, we've described Milo and Tock.  Who was the third main character?
Lily:  The Humbug.  He is a black bug.  And he has a coat.  He is full of himself.  He's always like, "Look at me!  Look what I did!"
Gracie:  He's mostly focused on himself.
Isaac:  The Humbug agrees with everyone.  He's focused on not getting into trouble and on looking like the smart one.
Gracie:  And he's a big scaredy.
Dad:  What were the two main lands they visited?
Lily:  The alphabet place and the number place.
Gracie:  Dictionopolis and Digitopolis.  And the two kings were Azaz and the Mathemagician.
Dad:  So, we described our three heroes.  But there are sooooo many other crazy folks they meet on their adventure... there's no way we can cover them all.  How about each of you pick just one to tell us about.  Tell us one favorite each.
Gracie:  There was this kid named Alec who floats.  He grows down instead of up.  His head starts from how high up he's going to be when he's an adult, and his feet grow down to the floor.  But his head stays the same height his whole life.
Dad:  And his family thinks that makes more sense.
Isaac:  Because then you can always have the same perspective.
Dad:  We grow up, so our perspective is always changing.  His stays the same.
Gracie:  But what if he wanted to see a little tiny pebble when he was only 3 years old?  Then he would be like, "I can't reach the ground... I can't see a pebble, I want to see a pebble..."
Dad:  What character do you want to tell us about, Isaac?
Isaac:  I liked Canby.  He's this guy who is everything.  He says "I'm as tall as can be, I'm as small as can be..."
Gracie:  "I'm as skinny as can be, I'm as brave as can be..."
Dad:  Do you remember where they met him?
Isaac:  Conclusions.  That's an island.
Dad:  And how do you get there?
Gracie:  You always jump to Conclusions.
Isaac:  It only happens when you decide something without knowing the facts.
Dad:  Your turn, Lily.
Lily:  I want to tell you about the number person.  The Mathemagician.  Milo asked him, "What is the biggest number?"  And it was a giant 3.  Then Milo said "No, no, no, I mean the longest number."  And it was a big looooong 8.
Dad:  Great.  Any way to summarize the book as a whole?
Gracie:  It's crazy.  It's so crazy.
Dad:  And did they ever save those princesses they were off to find?
Isaac:  I'll just leave that so you have to read the book.  I'm not going to say what happens, because everyone has to read the book.

daddy, mommy, and baby watchdogs, by Lily

Tock and Milo meet the princesses, by Gracie

more crazy characters, by Isaac

Author: Norton Juster
Illustrator: Jules Feiffer
Published, 1961: Random House
Like it? Find it


aloi (guiltlessreading) said...

great review guys! i love this book too, and i still have an old ratty copy on my shelf! :)

Swati said...

Lily's watch dogs are cute!

Jaymie said...

This is hilarious! I love the Phantom Tollbooth, but this "interview" with the kids made me want to pull it out and read it again.

Brooke from The Bluestocking Guide said...

I loved The Phantom Toll Booth!!! The Mysterious Benedict Society

Amy @ Hope Is the Word said...

I can't believe I STILL haven't read this one. Boy, does this post make me WANT to, though! :-)

Heather J. @ TLC Book Tours said...

I LOVE this book! It seems that everyone who is posting today for Kids Picks is choosing great books. :) I'm hoping to read this one with Kiddo at some point.

Rebecca Gomez said...

Fun! The discussion about the color of the car made me laugh. I loved The Phantom Tollbooth. It was a pleasantly surprising book.

Cara said...

I remember loving this book, but it has been a long time since I read it. I love the discussion style review. Very entertaining, particularly the "schwatreuse."

Janet said...

I've seen this title but had no idea what it was about. Now I'm definitely going to look for it.

Enjoyed the discussion!

Amy @ Hope Is the Word said...

Thanks for linking up your review to Read Aloud Thursday!

Loving learning at Home said...

What a great post. Makes me want to go get this now and read it. You're children are precious. This retelling of the story reminds me of Charlotte Mason's version of narration which we have started using again this week. What a great way to remember what you have read.

Brimful Curiosities said...

Hilarious posts, as always and love those crazy characters!

Natalie PlanetSmarty said...

I am just blown away with how well your kids can draw, and what a fun review. Thanks for linking to What My Child Is Reading.

Hannah said...

What a great review, and I love Isaac's big melee of characters!

Michelle said...

I always enjoy reading your conversations! I enjoyed this book when I took a Children's Literature Course in College. Your children's artwork is amazing. Thank you for sharing and linking up to stART :0)

Lori W. said...

These drawings are very interesting. I'm glad they were included in the review. Our Phantom Tollbooth copy goes has lost its cover. It was one of Dad's favorite books as a child and gets read every two years or so in our home.

Trish said...

Great book, and I love the watchdog fanart. Speaking of beloved illustrators, you may want to keep an eye out for Chuck Jones' very cool, very '60s film adaptation.

Kira Grover said...

I'm 13 and I am in LOVE with your guy's blogs, both of them. I love drawing but I'm not that great at it. All I can draw are people with tiny bodies and big heads. Anywho i love this book and think its great that your family does this. Thanks for the laughs every day!