The Phantom Tollbooth by Norton Juster (1961)

“Think of all the trouble it saves,” the man explained, and his face looked as if he’d be grinning an evil grin — if he could grin at all. “If you only do the easy and useless jobs, you’ll never have to worry about the important ones that are so difficult. You just won’t have the time. For there’s always something to do to keep you from what you really should be doing, and if it weren’t for that dreadful magic staff, you’d never know how much time you were wasting” (p 213).

Phantom TollboothThis was a KidLit book club pick. It’s a title I thought I had never read until I came to Alec, the boy who grows down, not up. Then something triggered in my brain and I recalled my third grade teacher reading this to her class. I’m glad I found my way to it again. The timing was fortuitous as I become increasingly frustrated professionally. The absurdities Milo encounters bathed my reality into a humorous light and I felt immediately better.

Perhaps it’s knowing that my struggles are universal… ubiquitous… timeless. But after reading this, my worries seem so silly, like the demon of insincerity or the Terrible Trivium. A refreshing experience.

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