The Phantom Tollbooth by Norton Juster

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The Phantom Tollbooth by Norton Juster

A classic children’s book, this is a delightful tale of a boy who goes on an adventure to another world, learning all sorts about words, numbers and points of view along the way.

I was really moved by the scene near the end (slight spoiler alert here), when the Princesses Rhyme and Reason share some wisdom with the boy Milo about learning. I want to reproduce it here for you.

I think that children always ask the questions that matter. We should never stop seeing ourselves as children really. Indeed, Jesus totally had a point when he said ‘”I tell you the truth, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.” Matt 18:3

Here is an excerpt from the book which I hope you will get as much from as I did. Enjoy!

“You must never feel badly about making mistakes,” explained Reason, quietly, “as long as you take the trouble to learn from them. For you often learn more by being wrong for the right reasons than you do by being right for the wrong reasons.”

“But there’s so much to learn, ” he said, with a thoughtful frown.

“Yes, that’s true,” admitted Rhyme, “but it’s not just learning things that’s important. It’s learning what to do with what you learn and learning why you learn at all that matters.”

“That’s just what I mean,” explained Milo, as Tock and the exhausted bug drifted quietly off to sleep. “Many of the things I’m supposed to know seem so useless that I can’t see the purpose in learning them at all.”

“You may not see it now,” said the Princess of Pure Reason, looking knowingly at Milo’s puzzled face, “but whatever we learn has a purpose and whatever we do affects everything and everyone else, if even in the tiniest way. Why, when a housefly flaps his wings, a breeze goes round the world; when a speck of dust falls to the ground, the entire planet weighs a little more; and when you stamp your foot, the earth moves slightly off its course. Whenever you laugh, gladness spreads like ripples in a pond; and whenever you’re sad, no one anywhere can be really happy. And it’s much the same thing with knowledge, for whenever you learn something new, the whole world becomes richer.”

“And remember, also,” added the Princess of Sweet Rhyme, “that many places you would like to see are just off the map and many things you want to know are just out of sight or a little beyond your reach. But one day you’ll reach them all, for what you learn today, for no reason at all, will help you discover all the wonderful secrets of tomorrow.”

“I think I understand,” he said, still full of questions and thoughts; “but which is the most important–”

 

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