Every once in a while, I get an overwhelming urge to return to the books of my childhood. Nothing beats that nostalgic feeling when you return to a story you grew up on. For me, The Phantom Tollbooth holds such a place in my heart. My mom had a beat up old copy from when she was growing up that we read together. For whatever reason, when I look back on my formative years, during which I did a lot of reading, most of my favorite books were ones that my mom had worn copies of from her childhood: The Chronicles of Narnia, Mrs. Frisby and the Rats of NIMH, and others. Realizing this now makes me so excited to be able to share my worn copies of books with my future children. Yet another reason to buy the books I love and not settle for the e-reader version. Someday, I hope my kids and I can curl up together and open that 50th anniversary edition of To Kill A Mockingbird that Kevin got me last year because the cover of my paperback version had torn and was generally falling apart. Or, if I have a daughter, we'll pull out my box set of the Anne of Green Gables series. Or we'll journey together down the road of any number of books I still have in boxes at my parents' house from my early years as a reader. Or maybe they'll pull my mom's old copy of The Phantom Tollbooth from the shelf and join Milo on his journey through the Kingdom of Wisdom just as I have done multiple times over the years.
The beautiful thing about Tollbooth is that, just like early Pixar movies, it holds appeal for people of all ages. I loved this book as a child, but I think reading it now in my 20s has revealed so much more to me about the message of the book - things which apply to my life now more than ever. When we meet Milo, the young protagonist of the tale, life has swept him into routine. He hurries to get home, though without real reason to. As Norton Juster puts it, "for while he was never anxious to be where he was going, he liked to get there as quickly as possible." One day, upon returning home from school, he discovers a mysterious package containing a tollbooth and small car. Milo, who has nothing better to do, sets them up and drives through the tollbooth. Suddenly, he finds himself in an entirely different world, one which he will eventually discover is the Kingdom of Wisdom.