The Phantom Tollbooth, by Norton Juster (10 July — 11 July)

So back in the day, I was a big nerd. “Just back in the day?”, I hear you saying, and you are right. But! Nonetheless. Big nerd. As part of my nerdiness, I did things like memorize state capitals and dichotomous keys (the latter has not stayed with me, sadly) found in my Childcraft encyclopedia/instructive books set. Did you have such a set? Because these books were awesome. And one of them, the one focused on math, included an excerpt from The Phantom Tollbooth, wherein Milo meets the Dodecahedron. I knew right away (at what, eight years old?) that I needed to find this book immediately. It’s been my favorite children’s book ever since.

For those of you who didn’t have Childcraft and/or were not interested in nerdy books as a child, The Phantom Tollbooth is the story of a kid called Milo who is just bored with life. I’ll let the author explain:

“When he was in school he longed to be out, and when he was out he longed to be in. On the way he thought about coming home, and coming home he thought about going. Wherever he was he wished he were somewhere else, and when he got there he wondered why he’d bothered. Nothing really interested him—least of all the things that should have.”

One day Milo arrived home, bored, to discover a curious package in his living room. Again, let’s let Juster set the scene:

“Who could possibly have left such an enormous package and such a strange one? For, while it was not quite square, it was definitely not round, and for its size it was larger than almost any other big package of smaller dimension that he’d ever seen.”

And it goes on from there. The package is the titular tollbooth, and Milo drives his toy car past it and into a land where all of our idiomatic expressions are taken literally (e.g. Milo jumps to conclusions about his trip and finds himself jumping to an island called Conclusions from which he must swim back) and there is a bit of a feud between math and language. Milo, with his companions Tock the watchdog (a dog with a clock for a torso) and the Humbug (who has a predilection for the number seventeen that I’ve long since assimilated), finds himself volunteering to end this feud by way of a perilous journey to the Castle in the Air, where the princesses Rhyme and Reason have been imprisoned for far too long.

Basically, it’s an adventure book with a great message for kids (knowledge, all of it, is important) and sly references for the adults reading it to them. The illustrations are cute, too.

Rating: 9/10
(Summer Lovin’ Challenge)

Zoe’s Tale, by John Scalzi (5 July — 6 July)

I didn’t intend to re-read this book so soon… but as mentioned in my last post, I was on vacation and ran out of books! I had brought this book just for Scott to read, which he did and of course he loved it, but when our plane got held up in a taxi line in Atlanta, I “resigned” myself to reading it.

In case you don’t remember, I read this book in December and enjoyed it enough to go back to the beginning of the series and read the other three. Then, when I got to The Last Colony, I thought it might have been better to have read this one last. Well, now that I’ve read it both first and last, as it were, I would definitely say it’s better read last. It certainly stands alone and is awesome at it, but it makes infinitely more sense having read the first three books. Especially I would recommend reading The Last Colony and Zoe’s Tale in quick succession, because the story is so much fuller that way.

Also, I cried again, at the same two points in the story, so either I have overactive tear ducts or Scalzi is a damn fine writer. Possibly both.

Rating: 8/10, again, because it’s still excellent!
(Summer Lovin’ Challenge)

Summer Lovin’ Challenge

I’m a week late on starting this, but that’s cool, right? The Summer Lovin’ Challenge asks participants to re-read some favorite novels over the summer (21 June — 21 September). Considering I haven’t re-read a book since… a long time ago, I think this is the perfect challenge for me. I’m going to try to re-read 10 books in the next three months out of the list below.

Book pool:
Harry Potter books 1-7, by J.K. Rowling
The Time Traveler’s Wife, by Audrey Niffenegger
In the Woods, by Tana French
Life of Pi, by Yann Martel
The Phantom Tollbooth, by Norton Juster
The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy “trilogy”, by Douglas Adams
Wicked and Son of a Witch, by Gregory Maguire

Actually read:
1. Zoe’s Tale, by John Scalzi (Review)
2. The Phantom Tollbooth, by Norton Juster (Review)
3. Harry Potter and the Sorceror’s Stone, by J.K. Rowling (Review)
4. Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets, by J.K. Rowling (Review)
5. Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban, by J.K. Rowling (Review)
6. Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, by J.K. Rowling (Review)
7. The Bad Beginning, by Lemony Snicket (Review)
8. The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, by Douglas Adams (Review)
9. The Time Traveler’s Wife, by Audrey Niffenegger (Review)
10. A Wrinkle in Time, by Madeleine L’Engle (Review)