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The Phantom Tollbooth

Lethargy, the Doldrums. I was 10 years old and clueless as to what these words meant let alone how to pronounce, “lethargy.” So I went to the dictionary and began my love affair with The Phantom Tollbooth.

It was also the book that helped me fall in love with words and literature.

It is a book of wonder and I have read it at each decade of my life.

I love this book so much that I have “To Lands Beyond” tattooed on my arm in an open book.

There is something so magical about this book and I am disappointed I did not write down how I felt when I read it all those times. I had no idea that I would be doing a reading experiment with myself every decade so this read through I will pay particular attention to my emotions.

What sparked my rereading of this book in my 20s was getting it as a gift from a very good friend of mine. It was the 35th Anniversary issue and she wrote a lovely note inside. I was in a very unhealthy relationship and stuck in my life. We talked about how to unstick ourselves and must have mentioned this book and here it was, my journey was about to begin again. Where would this next step, page, door take me? It took me home to find myself again and never doubt my strength and resolve. That was the 26 year old version of this book.

The 36 year old version was the acting version. When I was in undergrad I used this book as my theater book, meaning that we had to act out scenes from it and be filmed so we could see and hear how we projected, emoted and paced with words. I had so much fun using this book because it was so familiar and getting to act out the opening scene was a highlight of my 30s. I was building on the strength from 26 to 36.

Who knew a child’s book could be the impetus for such success?

I read it again at 42 for fun as my life was in quite the upheaval. My late wife was sick off and on and we tried to tap into the things that made us feel happy or good. So I went to my trusty paperback still in pristine condition and read once more about Milo and his adventures. I had many years of memories from this book and my late wife knew how much I loved this book she got me the annotated volume as a wedding gift. It came with pictures of the author and illustrator being silly as they autographed this book!! I was beyond the lands beyond. I was floating in pure joy and happiness. It was the perfect gift and we were about to go on the perfect trip to Thailand and get married.

We had another 5 years of good and bad and I struggled to find my happy again after her passing. It took a whole lot of help from friends to get through that dark period and I am very glad to be on this side of the blackness. I have found love again and I couldn’t be happier. We packed up and moved to a quieter life to write and be creative and find new adventures together.

Now at 50 I am about to embark on a very different, but familiar journey with Milo and Tock as we all head into strange lands together. I am very excited to see and feel this book again after having been through so much at each decade.

To Lands Beyond indeed; lead the way Milo.

5 thoughts on “The Phantom Tollbooth

  1. K.S.

    It’s always great to hear what childhood books become lifelong touchstones. It’s been decades since I’ve read The Phantom Tollbooth and this post makes me want to reread it (I can’t remember anything about it, so it will be a treat). So many English majors cite this as one of their inspirations!

    The books I revisit every decade or so are Philip Pullman’s His Dark Materials trilogy. I first read The Golden Compass when I was fifteen and it made such an impression. I’m due for a rereading soon.

    Also, Out of Print has a Phantom Tollbooth t-shirt:

    1. CoffeeFitnessUnicorn

      I should get the shirt for sure. All things Tollbooth!!

      I’m sorry about the approved and unapproved thing. The app is confusing. I love your comments and always welcome them.

  2. Gail Marshall

    I have never read The Phantom Tollbooth but will endeavor to do so. As a youngster my re-read favorite by M. Henry, King of the Wind. As a teenager i was into all science fiction, but my heart was The Ship Who Sang, Anne McCaffrey. I keep going back as an adult to the fierce SciFi novel by Alfred Bestor, The Stars My Destination. A cult classic worth its weight in gold!

  3. jobuslimen

    Yours is a life truly lived!!

  4. Carole Carey-Bruning

    I have never read this book, but it sounds like something I would love. As soon as I get done typing this comment, I’m going to my Kindle and buying it!! Always looking for recommendations of Great books…Thank you!

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