The Annotated Phantom Tollbooth, by Norton Juster and Leonard S. Marcus

The Annotated Phantom TollboothI’m sure I’ve mentioned it a million times (most recently), but The Phantom Tollbooth is my favorite book in the history of ever. It’s not the best book I’ve ever read, but it’s definitely the book I’ve read the most and that I will continue to re-read on an irregular basis until I die. Every time I read it I get a little happier in my heart.

So when this giant annotated edition showed up unexpectedly in the cataloging department, I was like, “MINE GIMME.” And then had to wait several days while it was, you know, cataloged and processed and sent to the library and whatever, I want my book. And then I got it, and I opened it, and I started reading it, and then it was like learning and I fell asleep. Literally. Several times over the course of reading this book.

Which is weird, because I really did like the foreword, in which I learned, among many other things, that Norton Juster was kind of a jerk back in the day and may or may not have created a secret society whose sole purpose was to reject people from said secret society. Which is the sort of awesome thing I would do if I were kind of a jerk. And I quite enjoyed the annotations, most of which were along the lines of “Here’s what this part of the story is based on” and “Here’s what this illustration could have looked like” and “Did you know this really cool etymological fact?” I did not, but now I do!

I think my problem with the annotations, as with any annotated book or commentary-ed DVD, is that it’s difficult for me to do two things at once, e.g. read the story and learn things about it. So I would find myself spending too much time in the margins and forgetting what was going on in the story, or getting lost in the story and having to backtrack to the annotations. But it was totally worth it for the knowledge that some of the weirder characters and places in the story were invented by Juster just to mess with Jules Feiffer, his friend and illustrator. It really makes a lot of sense.

Recommendation: I would definitely not recommend this for your first experience with my beloved Tollbooth, but if you’ve got a reading or two under your belt I think you’ll find a lot to interest you here.

Rating: 8/10

p.s. Happy Pi Day! This seems like a pretty appropriate book to read today, if you haven’t got other plans…

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