Thursday, September 15, 2016

The Phantom Tollbooth

There are very few books throughout my life that have truly found a place in my heart. If you asked after my favorite book, I'd have a hard time pinning one down... There are several books that I love, many more that I thoroughly enjoyed and am happy to have their stories rolling around in my head. But I can't definitively say which one of them tops all the others. I enjoyed reading all of them and each one came into my life at just the right time, so to say-that part of my life tops this part of my life now-is just impossible. It's like picking your favorite child.

Though seeing as how I only have one child, that easily makes him my favorite... (For now... See what I mean?)

In order for a book to reach the level of  favorite book I would imagine it would have to be one you've read as many times as Christopher Lee has read The Lord of the Rings... and the number of books I've re-read are very few. That list I can definitely narrow down. I've re-read Paternus, which I just recently fell in love with, and I've re-read the Death Note series (several times... OMG L... #swoon). A Wrinkle in Time makes the list, though sadly not its sequels (if you've read them, your probably understand why). I'm halfway through re-reading The Emperor's Blades, and I'll admit, I once re-read Black Beauty. I do have plans to read through a few more books again, A Wrinkle in Time is sitting on my desk right now waiting for me, but they're not really at the top of my TBR list. And I will probably never get to them.

There is only one book that has kept me coming back, one that I read every year, and with each read it becomes more and more clear why I need this book in my life. And that book is The Phantom Tollbooth.

I can understand how if this book doesn't hold some sort of childhood nostalgia for you, you may not enjoy it on first impressions... There's Milo who's bored with life and has no real ambition to get anywhere, along with his new friend, the very literal, watch dog, doomed to forever suffer the name of Tock, though his watch clicks away at a steady -tick, tick, tick- sound. Together with the grumpy humbug, their mission is to save the princesses Rhyme and Reason and restore order to the strange world Milo has been driven into before the demons take over the land in the midst of their current chaos.

It's a simple story, and I get that princesses are out nowadays. Perhaps the characters are slightly cliche as they are all the living embodiment of what they represent. They're clever little puns and play on words that make me chuckle every time... The Witch isn't a 'witch, she's a 'Which', and the bee isn't just a bee, he's a 'spelling bee'. 

Dorky, right?

Still, the same words get me every time, that same age old lesson to be learned and what truly sticks with me throughout this book; It was impossible.

Completely impossible. His mission the one no one else would undertake, too afraid to face the demons of insincerity and petty tasks and wasted efforts that bar their path to success up the Mountain of Ignorance, was absolutely impossible.

But had Milo known, would he have continued? Would he still have bypassed the paperwork demanded by the senses taker and plunged up the stairs to the castle in the air, from which there was no escape as the demons closed off his escape route behind him?

It's a beautiful story with so much depth packed into silly antics packed with lessons I want my son to learn. All the secrets to life and success are in this book. Don't believe me? Give it a read and tell me the Kingdom of Wisdom is folly, or that Tock's story doesn't pull at your heartstrings, or that the new hopes of an eager young boy discovering a thirst for life and his future isn't the most inspiring vision in all the world.

The Phantom Tollbooth is fantastic and I could write a post on each and every single page of this book. But instead, I'll leave you with the words of the Princess of Sweet Rhyme and the Princess of Pure Reason;

"You may not see it now," said the Princess of Pure Reason... "but whatever we learn has a purpose and whatever we do affects everything and everyone else, if even in the tiniest way... whenever you learn something new, the whole world becomes that much richer."

"And remember also," added the Princess of Sweet Rhyme, "that many places you would like to see are just off the map and many things you want to know are just out of sight or a little beyond your reach. But someday you'll reach them all, for what you learn today, for no reason at all, will help you discover all the wonderful secrets of tomorrow."

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