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Norton Juster: Phantom Toll Booth Designer

Milo was bored. So very bored by school, by books, and by toys that when he found a package marked "One Genuine Turnpike Tollbooth" he figured he couldn't possibly get any more bored by looking at it. So he opened it, set it up, climbed into his electric car and sped off for adventures in Dictionopolis, the land of words, and Digitopolis, the land of numbers. Accompanied by the faithful watchdog Tock, he faces the raucous Dischord & Dynne, the Terrible Trivium, and many other odd and wonderful creatures.

Norton Juster wasn't trying to write a book to teach A VERY IMPORTANT MESSAGE to his readers. He wasn't trying to write a book using only those words and ideas that every 9-year-old would know. He wanted to write a book that could be enjoyed by many people. The Phantom Tollbooth was that book. It was brave writing and cleverer than most every children's book on the market at that time. Not every reviewer liked it. It was too different for many of them. But, as they say in library land, the book found its audience. The Phantom Tollbooth took off to become not just a one-time hit but a true classic.

Who Is Norton Juster?

He is a successful architect and designer who is also professor emeritus of design at Hampshire College in Amherst, Massachussetts. Mr. Juster won impressive awards long before his tollbooth opened for business including a Fulbright fellowship. He went on to win the National Academy of Arts and Sciences award for outstanding achievement and a Guggenheim fellowship. He is also a devoted husband, father, and grandfather. His wife and his little granddaughter are featured in his award-winning book, The Hello, Goodbye Window.

Norton Juster is now retired from full-time work. He and his wife Jeanne live in Amherst. Besides writing and grandfathering, he also enjoys bicycling, reading, gardening, and making preserves and pickles.

The Phantom Tollbooth has taken many readers on magical journeys. It's a favorite book of some people whose life travels have taken them to some very interesting places:

Keith Lockhart, Music Director of the Boston Pops Orchestra Chris Riddell, children's author and co-author the young adult fantasy series, The Edge Chronicles Children's author Joni Sensel Teen author Jill Wolfson Sloane Tanen, author of the Coco chick books Cartoonist and children's book author Berkeley Breathed—he named his first son Milo in honor of The Phantom Tollbooth's main character.
Emma Watson, plays Hermoine Granger in the Harry Potter films, counts The Phantom Tollbooth as one of her favorites.

Cover to The Hello, Goodbye WindowNorton Juster went on to write several other children's books: The Dot and the Line: A Romance in Lower Mathematics; Alberic the Wise and Other Journeys; Otter Nonsense; As: A Surfeit of Similes; As Silly as Knees, as Busy as Bees: An Astonunding Assortment of Similes; and his recent award-winning picture book, The Hello, Goodbye Window. But it's The Phantom Tollbooth that has become the modern classic. If you enjoyed the ride through the The Phantom Tollbooth, try books from these other clever authors:

Madeleine L'Engle
Zilpha Keatley Snyder
Julie Andrews Edwards
C.S. Lewis
Rick Riordan
Antoine de Saint-Exupéry
Kate Dicamillo
Roald Dahl
Edward Lear
Rudyard Kipling

You can find more about Norton Juster and his books online:

Hello, Goodbye Window Guide
www.merrybee.info/ba/hello.html
Suggested activities for teachers and caregivers to use with Juster's award-winning picture book.

Norton Juster: Beyond Expectations
www.powells.com/authors/juster.html
In this lengthy interview for Powells.com, Mr. Juster speaks of tollbooths, architecture, and how his neighbor's artwork for the book influenced his writing.

Norton Juster Quotes
www.brainyquote.com/quotes/authors/n/norton_juster.html
These quotes may give readers a better understanding of Juster's work and personality.

Central Rappahannock Regional Library cardholders can find homework-worthy articles on the author in Biography Resource Center, part of our OneSearch online collection.