Welcome to my first installment of Way-Back Wednesdays! Which, conveniently, can also be called Flashback Fridays! Perfect for a lazy blogger such as myself.
What, exactly, is Way-Back Wednesdays?
I’m so glad you asked.
Way-Back Wednesdays (not to be confused with Peabody’s WABAC Machine), is a new series in which I will be re-reading and reviewing books from my own collection. And it’s a very specific collection, at that. I will be limiting myself to the contents of a random box of books I was recently given from my childhood bedroom:
And there are some doozies in there. So prepare yourselves. There has been no cherry-picking on my part, no hiding the occasionally…umm…eclectic literary choices of my younger self. The USOC has monitored all box searching activity to assure the purity of the sport.
Just to show I’m being honest, here’s a book for the ages:
Today, however, I will begin with an absolute favorite of mine. In my house we have not one, but three copies of Norton Juster’s classic, The Phantom Tollbooth. In this box is a well-worn, and apparently STOLEN copy, belonging to my best friend. Sorry, Marsha. I will send it back, I promise!
My apologies for this ridiculously short review, but really, I can sum it up in one word: brilliant.
Our story begins with a boy named Milo, who is exceedingly bored with, well, everything. And that’s really all we know about him, but it works. Within the first few pages, Milo finds several boxes in his home, the contents of which are “ONE GENUINE TURNPIKE TOLLBOOTH” and an electric car. Milo decides to set aside his boredom and assemble the tollbooth and car, and in no time, he sets off on an adventure into a land of puns and wordplay.
Stuck in the Doldrums, he meets Tock the watchdog and they travel to Dictionopolis, where they are sent off to rescue the princesses, Rhyme and Reason. This is an adventure filled with clever puns and an ever fascinating play on words. Juster’s sharp wit leaps from every page, and Jules Feiffer’s fantastic illustrations only add to the overall appeal. It is such a brilliant combination, resulting in a perfect tale for the ages.
The overarching theme of finding magic in ordinary things is timeless, and this book, now more than fifty years old, is as appealing as ever.
I think one of the true tests of children’s literature is its ability to not only appeal to adults, but transport us back to childhood, sweeping us up with the same magic we felt as kids. This book does exactly that, and it’s one of the many reasons this will always be a favorite of mine.
If you’ve reached adulthood without having read this classic, you must go forth and consume it immediately. If it’s been years since you’ve had the pleasure of drinking in Juster’s words, go find that stolen copy you’re hiding in a box somewhere and read it!*
*And then return it, 25-30 years late.