Still ferrying dazzled readers to Dictionopolis and beyond 50 years after his first appearance, young Milo is accompanied this time through by encyclopedic commentary from our generation's leading (and most readable) expert on the history of children's literature and publishing.
Expanding considerably on a chapter in his Funny Business: Conversations with Writers of Comedy (2009), Leonard opens with typically lucid and well-organized pictures of both Juster's and Feiffer's formative years and later careers, interwoven with accounts of the book's conception, publication and critical response. In notes running alongside the ensuing facsimile, he puts on an intellectual show. He serves up for the book's second line ("When [Milo] was in school he longed to be out, and when he was out he longed to be in") references to Max Weber, Jane Jacobs and the Marx Brothers' Animal Crackers, for instance, and closes with a spot-on characterization of Feiffer's tailpiece illustration as "a kind of Blakean force field, a whirlwind of energy both potential and real." In between, he delivers notes on topics as diverse as the etymological origins of "BALDERDASH!" and mimetic architecture to textual parallels with the Wizard of Oz and echoes of Winsor McKay and George Grosz in the art. Family photos, scrawled notes and images of handwritten and typescript manuscript pages further gloss a work that never ages nor fails to astonish.
A timeless tribute to learning as play, much enriched with background on even the (seemingly) throwaway lines and puns. (Literary criticism. 10-12, adult)
School Library Journal
Gr 6 Up—Feiffer's original, whimsical, black-and-white illustrations accompany the humorous text in this expanded new edition with copious insightful and extensive annotations. In an introduction that includes photos, copies of Juster's notes, early cartoons by Feiffer, quotes from interviews with the author and illustrator and many sources, Marcus presents biographical information about Juster, an architect and prankster, and Feiffer, the cartoonist and introvert. Readers will also learn about the New York publishing scene and the unique history of the publication of The Phantom Tollbooth (Random, 1961). In addition to the historical and cultural derivations of the puns, wordplay, idioms, and proverbs, the annotations provide insight into the creative process of the collaborators. Feiffer's inspired use of the same illustration for the smallest giant and the tallest midget was the result of a good-natured challenge to the artist by the author. Literary allusions to fairy tales, the works of Lewis Carroll, E. B. White, and Mark Twain and artistic allusions to Maurice Sendak, the French illustrator Gustave Doré, and Cubism are explored. Marcus further points out philosophical connections, such as "unintended consequences" and middle-class conformity, and finally compares Milo's newly gained wisdom to Voltaire's Candide. Younger readers will delight in the imaginative wordplay and absurd adventures of Milo and Tock and be informed by many of Marcus's annotations. Teens, teachers, librarians, and children's literature specialists will appreciate the extensive scholarship that brings insight to the text and illustrations as well as into the lives of the two creators.—Jackie Gropman, formerly at Fairfax County Public Library System, Fairfax, VA