Author: Norton Juster, Jules Feiffer
Links: Bookshop (affiliate link) |Goodreads
Summary: Parts of this were delightful, but it was too simplistic for me.
“For Milo, everything’s a bore. When a tollbooth mysteriously appears in his room, he drives through only because he’s got nothing better to do. But on the other side, things seem different. Milo visits the Island of Conclusions (you get there by jumping), learns about time from a ticking watchdog named Tock, and even embarks on a quest to rescue Rhyme and Reason! Somewhere along the way, Milo realizes something astonishing. Life is far from dull. In fact, it’s exciting beyond his wildest dreams. . . .” (source)
I was happy to have the book blurb to share with you, because it highlights the two main qualities of this story. First, it’s full of puns. I found some of these too simplistic, but those that turned into extended, comedic bits were often truly delightful. Second, it’s definitely a book that’s trying to make a point. The author desperately wants to convince kids that learning things is important and mostly accomplishes that by explicitly telling them so, over and over. There were a few morals resulting from the extended puns that were more insightful though. One of my favorites was a section playing on how something can be both mathematically correct and completely nonsensical at the same time.
This is one of very few books that I read as a child and have chosen to re-read as an adult. I think I probably read this in about sixth grade. What I primarily remember about it was how clever and adult it felt to me. I was probably only just starting to read books in the 300 page range and I’m sure I thought I was smart for following all the puns too. Funnily enough, one of the main thing I notice reading now is how obvious it is that this is a kids’ book. While parts of it were a lot of fun, the writing and plot were both simplistic. It was, and seems intended to be, quite didactic. While I recognize the value of stories like this for kids, I don’t think middle grade books are my thing. Fortunately, I did still enjoy it and I didn’t love it so much as a child that my changed perspective felt painful. I’d definitely recommend this for reading with your bookish kids.