The Phantom Tollbooth

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The Phantom Tollbooth (1961) by Norton Juster and illustrated by Jules Feiffer, is a classic in children's literature. The story is a modern-day fairy tale about a bored boy named Milo who drives through a magic tollbooth and into a new and very different world.


  • It seems to me that almost everything is a waste of time.
  • Whether or not you find your own way, you're bound to find some way. If you happen to find my way, please return it, as it was lost years ago. I imagine by now it's quite rusty.
  • There are no wrong roads to anywhere.
  • Well, since you got here by not thinking, it seems reasonable to expect that, in order to get out, you must start thinking.
  • Expect everything, I always say, and the unexpected never happens.
  • Why not? That's a good reason for almost anything - a bit used perhaps, but still quite serviceable.
  • The way you see things depends a great deal on where you look at them from.
  • There is much worth noticing that often escapes the eye.
  • If you want sense, you'll have to make it yourself.
  • Many of the things which can never be, often are.
  • You know that it's there, but you just don't know where - but just because you can never reach it doesn't mean that it's not worth looking for.
  • Whatever we learn has a purpose and whatever we do affects everything and everyone else.
  • But it's not just learning that's important. It's learning what to do with what you learn and learning why you learn at all that matters.
  • What you can do is often simply a matter of what you will do.
  • So many things are possible just as long as you don't know they're impossible.
  • You must never feel badly about making mistakes, as long as you learn from them.
  • "I can hardly see a thing," said Milo, taking hold of Tock's tail as a sticky mist engulfed the moon. "Perhaps we should wait until morning."
    "They'll be mourning for you soon enough," came a reply from directly above, and this was followed by a hideous cackling laugh very much like someone choking on a fishbone.
    "I don't think you understand," said Milo timidly as the watchdog growled a warning. "We're looking for a place to spend the night."
    "It's not yours to spend," the bird shrieked again, and followed it with the same horrible laugh.
    "That doesn't make any sense, you see--" he started to explain.
    "Dollars or cents, it's still not yours to spend," the bird replied haughtily.
    "But I didn't mean--" insisted Milo.
    "Of course you're mean," interrupted the bird, closing the eye that had been open and opening the one that had been closed. "Anyone who'd spend a night that doesn't belong to him is very mean."
    "Well, I thought that by--" he tried again desperately.
    "That's a different story," interjected the bird a bit more amiably. "If you want to buy, I'm sure I can arrange to sell, but with what you're doing you'll probably end up in a cell anyway."
    "That doesn't seem right," said Milo helplessly, for, with the bird taking everything the wrong way, he hardly knew what he was saying.
    "Agreed," said the bird, with a sharp click of his beak, "but neither is it left, although if I were you I would have left a long time ago."
    "Let me try once more," he said in an effort to explain. "In other words--"
    "You mean you have other words?" cried the bird happily. "Well, by all means, use them. You're certainly not doing very well with the ones you have now."

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