Most people remember the first time they read Norton Juster’s classic novel The Phantom Tollbooth. Milo, a young boy who is constantly bored, receives a magical tollbooth and a small, toy car, which he drives through the tollbooth to discover a whole new world brimming with eccentric characters and bizarre, but very rational, consequences. The story resonates with adults too, because it’s true. Who hasn’t experienced a real-life Doldrums, having fallen into a hazy wasteland due to inattention and laziness?
We couldn't be more thrilled that Norton Juster will be joining us this May for the Restless Readers Weekend—during which participants will get to "return to school" for a weekend on the beautiful Amherst College campus and immerse themselves in the world of children's literature with the likes of Norton Juster, Indian children's author Arshia Sattar, Mexican illustrator Eko, and others. To give you a taste of what's on offer, listen to to our publisher Ilan Stavans' conversation with Juster on his podcast "In Contrast".
Juster shares how he half-heartedly started a career in architecture, only to be drawn—almost subconsciously—to writing. The Phantom Tollbooth, Juster’s first novel, was actually the result of procrastinating working on another book.
“I was a world champion digresser,” Juster says, laughing, in the interview.
As he continued to write, he found that he really enjoyed it. He began discovering joyfulness and playfulness in words and language—which, as we know, largely informed the wit in The Phantom Tollbooth. Much of his inspiration for Milo’s character came from his own experiences as a child: misunderstandings and disappointments that often stemmed from some gap in communication.
“When I was growing up. I always had the feeling that nothing I said, anybody understood, and nothing they said did I understand,” Juster says. “I always had a different viewpoint of all that I got involved in. But I was sure about one thing: that adults didn’t have the capacity to tell you the truth. And they didn’t have the capacity to understand anything I was talking about.”
To hear the full interview between Stavans and Juster, click here. Stavans and Juster will be continuing their conversation about writing and language during our Restless Readers Weekend on May 4. Find out more at the link below!