The book which changed the way I felt about reading in fourth grade was The Phantom Tollbooth by Norton Juster. The fun play on words and fantastical adventure of Milo and Tock was the beginning of my love of reading.
Milo, a young boy who finds no wonder or interest in the world comes home after school one day to find a large box in his bedroom. Upon putting together the tollbooth inside, Milo takes his car and drives into the Kingdom of Wisdom. Except since the exile of the Princesses, Rhyme and Reason, chaos and division reign. Milo, a watchdog named Tock, and Humbug, take on the quest to restore the princesses to the kingdom.
Their greatest dangers lie in the Valley of Ignorance where demons, such as Terrible Trivium, set their snares to thwart the rescue.
“If you only do the easy, useless jobs, you’ll never have to worry about the important ones which are so difficult. You just won’t have time. For there’s always something to do to keep you from what you really should be doing…why if you stay here, you’ll never have to think again, and with a little practice you can become a monster of habit too.”
The Phantom Tollbooth is exciting and humorous for readers of all ages. Younger children may not understand all the play on words, but they will enjoy the adventure. I’ve recently re-read the story and still love it. At just over two hundred and fifty pages, it’s a great read-aloud or chapter book for your third or fourth grader.
Juster, Norton. The Phantom Tollbooth. W. Ross Macdonald School Resource Services Library, 2015.