Brain Pickings

The Phantom Tollbooth at 50: Celebrating Timeless Imagination

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What dumpster-diving in the 1960s has to do with timeless wisdom for the eternal kid.

The Phantom Tollbooth isn’t merely one of the most celebrated children’s books of all time, it’s also one of those rare children’s books with timeless philosophy for grown-ups, its map of The Kingdom of Wisdom a profound metaphor for curiosity and the human condition. This month marks the 50th anniversary of the beloved classic and there’s hardly a better celebration than The Phantom Tollbooth 50th Anniversary Edition — a magnificent volume featuring brief essays from renowned authors, educators, and artists — including Philip Pullman, Suzanne Collins, Jeanne Birdsall, and Mo Willems — alongside the complete original text and illustrations of the book and the now-legendary 35th anniversary essay by Where The Wild Things Are author Maurice Sendak.

Packaged in the classic original art, stamped and debossed on the case with a transparent acetate jacket, the book is an absolute treasure to touch and to hold, exuding in a tactile way the intangible magic that fueled a half-century of heart-warming enchantment.

Here’s a lovely short documentary about the book’s masterminds, author Norton Juster and illustrator Jules Feiffer, reminiscing about the unusual spark of their collaboration and the original creative process behind the work:

In another celebration of the 50th anniversary, a team of Brooklyn-based filmmakers is bringing to life a documentary about the beloved work of the imagination, currently raising funds on Kickstarter.

Juster’s new picture book, Neville, is also out today and looking absolutely delightful.

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