Norton Juster’s The Phantom Tollbooth has to be one of the most endearing children’s adventure novel ever published.
The story revolves around Milo, a bored boy who gets to travel in the Kingdom of Wisdom after he accidentally receives a magic tollbooth. With his two faithful companions, he has several adventures including rescuing Princess Rhyme and Princess Reason. The book is full of puns and takes a dig at English language idioms. It has frequently been compared with Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland.
Thomas Allen was one of the 70 artists who were chosen to decorate a tower at The Johns Hopkins hospital and The Charlotte R. Bloomberg Children’s Center. He was asked to use two books from a list of famous children’s books and create positive photographs. He chose The Phantom Tollbooth and instead of creating photographs, he chose several other books to bring 6 of The Phantom Tollbooth’s personified idioms to life. The idea was to use other books’ surfaces to convey hidden meanings that point towards idioms that are personified in The Phantom Tollbooth.
For instance, the idiom ‘A solution to any problem can be found’ has been personified with the help of a Mathemagician who stands on the top of a pile of flashcards that have numbers printed on them. The skywards pointing hand of the caricature seems to assert that solutions to any problems no matter how difficult they seem at first glance can be found. The Spelling Bee, the dictionary and the princesses have been personified with the help of other books as well.
Thomas Allen’s art might be a little difficult to understand for people who have not read the book, and that is precisely one of the reasons why you should go ahead and grab the first copy of The Phantom Tollbooth you see at a bookstore and begin to read it. You could also go ahead and take a look at the Book Igloo, which is a really interesting piece of work. If you find yourself frustrated reading books, take a look at these Unique Bookends.