This Week Rida Bint Fozi Shares A Book She Is Currently Reading
A few months ago I took a trip to Strand Books to search for a gift for my 11-year-old sister. I try my hardest not to be picky about what she reads because the simple fact that she is enjoying words brings me an incredible amount of joy. But when I look through some of the books she's borrowed from her school library, I begin to wonder why writers have started dumbing down their texts. Page after page I find that there are no interesting words to be learned, no exciting places to go, and definitely no new things to see. It seems that these writers are forgetting that children are fascinating people, and are more alive, awake and aware of the world than many adults. So as I searched the aisles of Strand for the “perfect book,” I kept in mind that I was thirsty for something that would be both enjoyable and intellectually stimulating, expanding my sister’s mind and taking her to unexpected places. It sounded like an impossible feat, but when my hands ran across the cover of The Phantom Tollbooth I knew I'd found exactly what I'd been looking for.
Our journey begins with a young boy named Milo, possibly the most bored child in the world, who considers “the process of seeking knowledge [to be] the greatest waste of time of all.” He rushes from home to school and school to home, only to find that nothing is of interest to him here, there or anywhere. One day he returns home and finds a mysterious package containing a tollbooth sitting in the corner of his room. After some simple assembling he begins his trip into the Kingdom of Wisdom, beyond the land of Expectations (which no one seems to visit anymore), through the Doldrums, and eventually to the city of Dictionopolis, where all the words in the world are grown.
He learns the history of the Kingdom of Wisdom from Faintly Macabre, the Which, and then embarks on a journey to rescue Rhyme and Reason, the two princesses who have been banished to the Castle of Air in the Mountains of Ignorance. Milo encounters a slew of characters on his quest—King Azaz the Unabridged, the Mathemagician, the Awful Dynne, and the Soundkeeper, to name a few—and using the tools he has gathered from the Kingdom of Wisdom he goes onward to defeat the Demons of Ignorance. He returns home having gained a priceless lesson about the value of education and all that is around him. The tollbooth has vanished, and in its place is a note that tells Milo that he has completed his journey, and, if he really wants to, he can always find his way to Wisdom on his own.
The Phantom Tollbooth is for those who want to love reading, those who already love it, and those who are trying to rediscover why they once did. I’d share this book with my family, my friends, my fellow interns and my professors, and I’d feign shock when they informed me that they had all fallen deeply in love with Norton Juster’s clever tale. It’s hard to say just one thing that makes this the amazing book that it is, but I think Anna Quindlen, in a review for the New York Times, puts it best:
“I read [The Phantom Tollbooth] first when I was ten. I still have the
book report I wrote, which began ‘This is the best book ever.’”