The Phantom Tollbooth: A Novel Approach to Vocabulary Lessons

The Phantom Tollbooth, by Norton Juster, is a modern day classic novel perfect for middle level readers whom you hope to inspire with the desire to expand their verbal and imaginative horizons.

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In this fairytale-style novel a young boy, Milo, who is bored with life is given the whirlwind opportunity to have a mind (and vocabulary) expanding adventure. Milo receives the gift of a Phantom Tollbooth. This tollbooth allows Milo to enter a magical world that features ridiculous puns and verbal idioms come to life. Milo jumps to the Land of Conclusions, meets Grow Downs, the adults of the future (children who have not yet “grown-down” to their future height), and meets such dire characters as the Senses Taker. Through Milo’s misadventures and efforts to save two princesses, Rhyme and Reason, he learns to value knowledge and ultimately appreciate all of life’s varied experiences. The Phantom Tollbooth not only introduces a vast array of oddities of the English language, it also uses an extensive vocabulary that focuses the reader on the importance of word variety.

This is a great book to read on an electronic reader as your student may not be familiar with the meaning of many of the words. It is very encouraging to be able to immediately look up the meaning of a word and see the definition in the context of the text so as to understand how the word is used. Since many of the words are used humorously, middle level readers are thrilled to learn the meaning of the word so that they can “get the joke”.

The Phantom Tollbooth is a funny, tongue-in-cheek adventure novel that promotes knowledge of letters and numbers above ignorance. Milo escapes from the Doldrums, both in his own life and in his novel world. This is a valuable and enjoyable allegorical tale for our modern children.

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