In a previous post, I noted how I would recommend reading The Phantom Tollbooth to anyone who really wanted to know me. My parents, knowing this, got me the Annotated Phantom Tollbooth as a Christmas present last year. I’ve only just gotten around to reading it.
There’s been a trend over the last decade to try and replicate the brilliance of The Annotated Alice by releasing other annotated children’s books. I’ve read a lot of them, some were good* and some were not.** I was pleased to find that I really enjoyed this one.
*The Annotated Hobbit includes all the edits which changed The Hobbit from being a standalone kids book to being the prequel/gateway drug to The Lord of the Rings as well as a lot of the artwork and sketches from editions around the world.
**The Annotated Wizard of Oz didn’t include any notes which really caught my attention. The only takeaway I had from that is that it was very very important to own a copy of The Wizard of Oz which has the original W.W Denslow illustrations.
The notes on Tollbooth go into the history of the wordplay—where certain phrases come from and how they have come to mean what they mean. They include excerpts of other (horrible, gloriously so) puns and (less horrible, less glorious) ideas which never made it into the book. They discuss the back and forth between Juster and Feiffer as one tried to write things the other couldn’t draw. They all add to the text in a way which only makes me enjoy the entire book more.
I look forward to reading it to the next generation.
I also really enjoyed the forward which discusses the creation of the book. Especially since it wasn’t an obvious choice to be published and required a certain amount of faith to get printed. It’s always interesting to read about the difficulties it took to create something which, today, we can’t imagine not existing.