The girls and I have been reading The Phantom Tollbooth at bedtime for a while now.
I used to be the bedtime story reader. When they were little we’d get the girls upstairs, get them into their jammies and make them brush their teeth, and then I’d settle in and read whatever it was they wanted to hear. It took a lot of time, but it was worth every minute – there weren’t many other ways to spend an evening that were more rewarding, and those nights fly by fast.
As, indeed, they did.
Eventually the girls discovered that Kim was a much better reader than I was. I read like the narrator, but Kim reads like the characters. And so for the last couple of years, whenever there were books to be read at bedtime it would be Kim’s task to do so. And now that they’re both older and can read their own stories, even that had seemed to be on the way out.
But I have always loved The Phantom Tollbooth and I wanted to share it with them. For those of you who have not read it, well, what is wrong with you? Go out and read it! Now! I’ll wait.
See? It’s amazing.
We’re having fun following the adventures of Milo (a boy who never before knew what to do with his time), Tock (a watchdog – literally, a dog with a watch for a body – who, in a tragic family mix-up, says “tick-tick-tick”) and the Humbug (a large insect clearly modeled on a WC Fields character) as they travel through the decaying Kingdom of Wisdom on their quest to rescue the Princesses Rhyme and Reason from their prison in the Castle in the Air, way up in the Mountains of Ignorance.
Yes, the whole book is a long series of puns and anthropomorphisms designed to appeal to anyone with a sense of humor.
Lauren’s favorite part so far has been the chapter where we meet The World’s Smallest Giant (who is also The World’s Largest Midget, among other things). Tabitha seems to prefer the long diversion through the Valley of Sound, wherein we meet Dr. Kokophonus A. Dyschord and his assistant, the Awful Dynne. I have a sneaking fondness for Officer Shrift of the Dictionopolis police, who is, of course, short.
We’re almost done now. Milo and crew have left Digitopolis, where numbers are mined, and are headed into the wilds. Eventually the story will come to an end, and once again I will be on the outside looking in come story time.
But for a while, even as big as they are now, they still want Dad to read them a story at bedtime.
So I shall.