The Phantom Tollbooth

Book quote

Rereading a book that you loved as a child can have a profound impact on you as an adult. You understand some of the deeper life lessons that it was trying to teach you and can pick out the themes around which it revolves. As the quote from above (from “You’ve Got Mail”) states, the books we read as children become a part of our identity.

Reading as an adult can also impact us but usually in different ways. We are most likely given over to deep thoughts or changing our way of thinking based on a new idea represented or an old one given new light.

So what happens when you read a childhood classic as an adult? Well I participated in this little experiment to find out. A former coworker of mine lent me “The Phantom Tollbooth” because she was appalled to learn that as an avid book lover, I had never read it. For those of you who were in the same boat as me, the novel revolves around a boy named Milo who is consistently bored and pleased by nothing until the day he receives a mysterious package. When Milo discovers that the package contains a tollbooth that transports him to another world, he jumps whole-heartedly into the journey. He meets many a strange character and on his question to restore Rhyme and Reason meets members of the two kingdoms of Dictionopolis and Digitopolis, one convinced that words are better and the other prefers numbers.

The entire book is a thinly veiled attempt to install good behavior and habits into children, which isn’t bad at all. In fact, Norton Juster does a fantastic job at leading Milo down the correct path without ever forcing him down it. Plus he has to outwit other players on the field if he wants to move forward in his mission. Demons such as the Terrible Trivium and Senses Taker plus places like the Island of Conclusions crop up to interfere with the quest. It is humorously well-written and edges the reader along without feeling like the lessons are being shoved down your throat.

When I was finished with the book, I was amazed at how good I felt. I had learned that words and numbers are equally important and that being idle or bored with life is no way to live at all when there are so many adventures to be had. Since I try to live my life to fullest on a daily basis, I was not surprised to learn that this book had only served to reenforce that ideal.

And one quote in particular stuck with me: “So many things are possible just so long as you don’t know they’re impossible.” What a wonderful thought for an author to present to our young people. As we get older, we often lose sight of our dreams or stop making goals. In essence, many people stop living and just simply survive. But why not have something to reach for? Nothing is impossible as long you don’t think that it is. The minute we allow doubt, worry, and indecision to become every day part of our lives is the day that we stop living with the childlike wonder that makes life worth enjoying.

Pick up a book. Receive a new idea. Dream a big dream. And never let anyone tell you that you can’t because no one but you ever truly knows what you are capable of and what will impact you the hardest. Learn something from a book, a news article, a conversation and allow yourself to imagine a greater self than the one you are and work towards that identity.


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