A Teacher’s Guide to Phantom Tollbooth
Milo is a young boy and is quite bored with his school and with life more generally. Nothing excites or please him. he enjoys a lot of luxuries at home but they all seem kind of blend.
He walks back home thinking how useless his life is. He does not look at his surroundings when he gets home, he straight goes to his room and anticipates another boring useless afternoon. One day he spots a peculiar package in the corner of his room. it is wrapped properly as if someone specially sent it. Milo was not expecting anything like this.
The package has his name on but the sender’s name is not mentioned properly. There is a card attached: it says that inside the package are a tollbooth, signs, coins, a map and a volume of traffic laws. Milo somehow opened the box and assembles the tollbooth. He consults the map and finds it is sort of strange as he never heard about these places called Dictionopolis. He dusts his battery-operated car which he does not use recently and starts it. He inserts the coin in the tollbooth and starts his journey.
To Milo’s shock, once he passes the tollbooth, he leaves his house and ends up on a road he has never seen before. His interest starts to develop and he enjoys the beautiful view. He passes through a beautiful area that he learns is called ‘Expectations’. He sees a signal that says that if he needs any information he has to blow the horn. Milo immediately presses the horn and a funny little man named Whether Man appears from a small house. Milo tries to ask the Whether Man to the way to Dictionopolis but he gives abrupt answers. Milo confuses Whether man with Weather Man and asks him whether or not it will rain. He corrected Milo’s mistake. Finding no help Milo decides to continue his journey. As he drives, his mind wanders, and he missed out a very important road sign. He ends up going down a path that he should not have taken.
The beautiful landscape turns into a grey and dull valley. His little car loses speed and it eventually stops. He sees small creatures named as Lethargians who blend almost into their surroundings. This land is named as Doldrums. Lethargians introduce themselves to Milo and show him their rule book. After listening to Lethargarians’ rules, Milo realises his life has been quite similar to them. Suddenly a watchdog appears in aggressive mood and Lethargarians disperse. Milo requests that watchdog named as Tock to help him go out of this weird place but he advises him to think on his own. Milo works on this and his car starts working again. Tock jumps in the car and they both leave Doldrums.
Milo and Tock drive along together. Milo is eager to know why talk is named Tock when the sound he produces is “Tick”. Tock gets emotional and tells his life story to Milo. Tock had a brother who was named Tick and he only made the sound Tock. Consequently, the reverse happens to him their names were exchanged. Tock also tells that his family business is protecting time. Milo and Tock keep talking about time until they get to dictionopolis, which is a city, worth seeing. When Milo and Tock reach the entrance of the city they notice a man guarding it. He welcomes them, informing that it is the market day. He wants to know their reason for visiting dictionopolis. Milo can’t give any reason. After a thorough search, the guard finds a reason named “Why not” and gives it to Milo and Tock. This is like a free pass into the city.
Once Milo and Tock get in, five gentlemen greet them. These men take turns saying the same thing in five different ways they introduce themselves as the king’s cabinets and welcome Milo to Dictionopolis. The cabinet members tell Milo about the importance of words. They say that words grow in Dictionopolis and are traded all over in the world. They invite Milo and Tock to the royal banquet.
Milo and Tock enter into the world market, which is in full swing. Vendors are selling words as they are fruits and vegetables. They are marketed as commodities. Milo is tempted enough to buy a few words but then realises that they are not free. He only has a coin which wants to save to get back home.
Milo and Tock enjoy browsing, though, and they stop at a stand where customers can create their own words with the help of alphabets. Each letter has its own flavour and texture. Some of them are juicy and sweet but some are dry and plain. Milo wants to create some words but due to the lack of vocabulary, he can’t do so. He regrets his negligence in learning the language.
Milo sees a huge Spelling Bee near the stall which can spell any words. Spelling Bee is proud of his skills and encourages Milo to ask him any difficult word to spell. The Spelling Bee starts telling his story to Milo when a giant Humbug interrupts her badly. It is obvious that Spelling Bee and Humbug can not get along. The Spelling Bee accuses Humbug to be a liar and The Humbug strikes back by telling his family history. He tells them about his family occupation and heroic acts. This enrages the Spelling Bee and they burst out fighting. During the fight, all the word stands get knocked over. Milo who was still astonished at the unexpected situation falls on the Bee, and Tock is pushed towards a big stack of letters. The fight creates havoc in the marketplace.
After the fight between the Spelling Bee and Humbug, the words are out of order. Everybody talks quite abruptly for a while. Meanwhile, officer Shrift; Dictionopolis’ single police officer appears in a bad mood. He assesses the situation and interrogates different people. Accidently, Humbug takes Milo’s name (maybe for a reference) and Inspector Short Shrift blames it all on him. He decides to punish Milo. Milo, trying to save himself, says that being police, Shrift cannot sentence him but he explains that he has got the power to do these both. Short Shrift announces that Milo will have to spend 6,000,000 years in jail. This unexpected situation makes Milo speechless. Short Shrift locks Milo and Tock into an old dungeon with a witch.
Finally, the witch, who is in a cell with them, introduces herself. Her name is Faintly Macabre and she is an official Which. Once she had been assigned with an important job in Dictionopolis to help people Which words to be used on different occasions. Gradually she got mean and provided the ordinary words to the general public and kept important ones for her own self. A day came when she refused to supply any word. The whole situation came to a halt. She nearly destroyed the economy of the country. The King got mad and put her into jail.
She gives Milo and Tock each a snack of punctuation marks which tastes like candy. Milo is determined to help release the Which, but she says that there is only one thing that can improve the situation and that is the comeback of Rhyme and Reason. Milo is curious to know about them so Which promises to tell him the entire story.
This chapter begins with Faintly telling Milo the story of Rhyme and Reason. There is a prince setting out on an exploration. He reaches in a wasteland which is filled up with bad spirits. He fights those bad creatures and establishes his kingdom named Wisdom. At first, Wisdom is a small kingdom but eventually, the king wins more and more land to expand his empire. The king is blessed by two sons who continue their dad’s mission of gaining territory. They each found their own cities; Dictionopolis and Digitopolis. Dictionopolis is meant for words and Digitopolis is for numbers. The two brothers think that their land is the best and the conflict between them intensifies.
The king finds two adorable baby girls and he decides to adopt them. He names them Princess Reason and Princess Rhyme. After the King’s death, King Azaz (Dictionopolis), King Mathemagician (Digitopolis) share the kingship of Wisdom and are supposed to take care of their baby sisters, Rhyme and Reason. As the princesses grow up they become really popular. Their intelligence and wisdom inspire the common people.
Whereas King Azaz and Mathemagician turn against each other and they decide to split away. They want Rhyme and Reason to choose between words and numbers.
Rhyme and Reason say that both of them are equally important, but in different ways. This displeases both Kings and banishes their sisters sending them to the Castle in the Air. Here Faintly’s story ends. Faintly states that the entire kingdom is now suffering in absence of both princesses. Faintly informs them that they can leave anytime because officer Short Shrift has not locked the door and he will not return to keep a check on his prisoners. Milo and Tock come out of the jail and outside they meet the cabinet members. They remind them about the Royal Banquet and give them a ride to reach on time.