Discussion:
Norton Juster, 91, children's books author (The Phantom Tollbooth, The Dot and the Line)
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Diner
2021-03-09 13:31:07 UTC
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https://twitter.com/The_Pigeon/status/1369270508206907396
Mo Willems' Pigeon
@The_Pigeon

My lunch partner, Norton Juster, ran out of stories & passed peacefully last night.

Best known for THE PHANTOM TOLLBOOTH + THE DOT & THE LINE, Norton’s greatest work was himself: a tapestry of delightful tales.

Miss him.

"To the vector goes the spoils."

7:55 AM · Mar 9, 2021


https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Norton_Juster
Big Mongo
2021-03-09 20:57:20 UTC
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Post by Diner
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Norton_Juster
https://www.nytimes.com/2021/03/09/books/norton-juster-dead.html

Norton Juster, Who Wrote ‘The Phantom Tollbooth,’ Dies at 91

“Tollbooth,” about a bored boy’s fantastical journey, became a beloved touchstone of children’s literature when it was first published in 1961.

By Neil Genzlinger
March 9, 2021
Updated 3:26 p.m. ET
Norton Juster, who wrote one of children’s literature’s most beloved and enduring books, “The Phantom Tollbooth,” died on Monday at his home in Northampton, Mass. He was 91.

His daughter, Emily Juster, said in a statement that the cause was complications of a recent stroke.

“The Phantom Tollbooth,” first published in 1961, is the story of a bored boy named Milo who, when a tollbooth inexplicably appears in his room, passes through it into a land of whimsy, wordplay and imagination.

The book was illustrated by the man Mr. Juster shared a duplex with at the time, Jules Feiffer, who was early in his renowned career as a cartoonist and author. It has sold almost five million copies, has been reissued multiple times and was turned into an animated film and a stage musical.

“There was once a boy named Milo who didn’t know what to do with himself,” the book begins, “not just sometimes, but always.”

Mr. Juster sent Milo through that magical tollbooth in an electric car and into a universe full of strange lands and characters. His first stop is a place called Expectations.

“Some people never go beyond Expectations,” a man there tells him, “but my job is to hurry them along whether they like it or not.”

The fellow dispensing that information is the Whether Man — “not the Weather Man,” as he explains to Milo, “for after all it’s more important to know whether there will be weather than what the weather will be.”

And so it goes, until by the end of his journey Milo is no longer the blasé boy he was at the start. The combination of Mr. Juster’s lively prose and Mr. Feiffer’s evocative drawings proved irresistible, and not just to children.

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“Most books advertised for ‘readers of all ages’ fail to keep their promise,” Ann McGovern wrote in her review in The New York Times in 1961. “But Norton Juster’s amazing fantasy has something wonderful for anybody old enough to relish the allegorical wisdom of ‘Alice in Wonderland’ and the pointed whimsy of ‘The Wizard of Oz.’”

Mr. Feiffer, in a statement, reflected on the qualities Mr. Juster brought to the book and the impact his story has had on generations of readers.

“His singular quality was being mischievous,” Mr. Feiffer said. “He saw humor as turning everything on its head. It’s incredible the effect he had on millions of readers who turned ‘The Phantom Tollbooth’ into something of a cult or a religion.”

Mr. Juster, an architect by trade, called himself an “accidental writer,” but he went on to write other children’s books and reunited with Mr. Feiffer in 2010 on “The Odious Ogre.” In a 2012 interview with CNN, he talked about the key to writing for young readers.

“You have to retain, I guess, a good piece of the way you thought as a child,” he said. “I think if you lose all of that, that’s where the deadliness comes from. The idea of children looking at things differently is a precious thing. The most important thing you can do is notice.”

Norton Juster was born on June 2, 1929, in Brooklyn to Samuel and Minnie (Silberman) Juster, who were Romanian immigrants. His father was an architect, his mother a homemaker.

As a child Norton particularly enjoyed the “Wizard of Oz” book series, but he also dived into the books he found in his parents’ collection.

“They had several shelves of huge Russian and Yiddish novels all translated into English,” he told the children’s literacy site Reading Rockets, “but, you know, 1,200, 1,500 pages. And I would read them and have no idea what I was reading, but I just loved the language and the way you read it and how the words sounded. And I think that has always affected the way I write.”

Mr. Juster received a bachelor’s degree in architecture at the University of Pennsylvania in 1952, then was a Fulbright scholar in city planning at the University of Liverpool in England. After three years in the Navy’s engineering corps, he set up shop as an architect in New York.

In an introduction to a 1996 reissue of “The Phantom Tollbooth,” he said that the seed for the book was planted one day when a boy came up to him as Mr. Juster was waiting to be seated in a restaurant.

“He suddenly asked, ‘What’s the biggest number there is?’” Mr. Juster recalled. “It was a startling question. The kind that children are so good at. I asked him what he thought the biggest number was, and then told him to add one to it. He did the same to me. We continued back and forth and had a marvelous time talking about infinity and realizing that you simply couldn’t get there from here.”

“I was intrigued, and thrown back into my own childhood memories and the way I used to think about the mysteries of life,” he added. “So I started to compose what I thought would be a little story about a child’s confrontation with numbers and words and meanings and other strange concepts that are imposed on children.”

Maurice Sendak, whose famed children’s book “Where the Wild Things Are” came out two years after “Tollbooth,” remembered that period fondly as a time when children’s authors were pushing beyond the blandness of an earlier era — a time, he wrote in a 1996 edition of “Wild Things,” when “it was easy to stay clean and fresh, and wildly ourselves.”

But, Mr. Sendak lamented, time had shown that Mr. Juster’s conjuring of the various allegorical monsters that Milo encountered proved to be all too spot on.

“The Demons of Ignorance, the Gross Exaggeration (whose wicked teeth were made ‘only to mangle the truth’), and the shabby Threadbare Excuse are inside the walls of the Kingdom of Wisdom,” Mr. Sendak wrote, “while the Gorgons of Hate and Malice, the Overbearing Know-it-all, and most especially the Triple Demons of Compromise, are already established in high office all over the world.”

Mr. Juster’s later books included “Alberic the Wise and Other Journeys” (1965), illustrated by Domenico Gnoli, and “Otter Nonsense” (1982), illustrated by Eric Carle.

Mr. Juster continued to practice architecture into the 1990s and was a founding faculty member of Hampshire College in Amherst, Mass., where he continued to teach until 1992.

His wife of 54 years, Jeanne Ray, died in 2018. In addition to his daughter, he is survived by a granddaughter.

Mr. Juster would sometimes be faulted for his use of big or unfamiliar words in his children’s books, but he thought that challenging young readers was part of the point.

“To kids,” he said, “there are no difficult words, there are just words they have never come across before.”
Big Mongo
2021-03-09 20:58:56 UTC
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Post by Diner
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Norton_Juster
Big Mongo
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Post by Diner
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Norton_Juster
https://www.nytimes.com/2021/03/09/books/norton-juster-dead.html

Norton Juster, Who Wrote ‘The Phantom Tollbooth,’ Dies at 91

“Tollbooth,” about a bored boy’s fantastical journey, became a beloved touchstone of children’s literature when it was first published in 1961.

By Neil Genzlinger
March 9, 2021
Updated 3:26 p.m. ET
Norton Juster, who wrote one of children’s literature’s most beloved and enduring books, “The Phantom Tollbooth,” died on Monday at his home in Northampton, Mass. He was 91.

His daughter, Emily Juster, said in a statement that the cause was complications of a recent stroke.

“The Phantom Tollbooth,” first published in 1961, is the story of a bored boy named Milo who, when a tollbooth inexplicably appears in his room, passes through it into a land of whimsy, wordplay and imagination.

The book was illustrated by the man Mr. Juster shared a duplex with at the time, Jules Feiffer, who was early in his renowned career as a cartoonist and author. It has sold almost five million copies, has been reissued multiple times and was turned into an animated film and a stage musical.

“There was once a boy named Milo who didn’t know what to do with himself,” the book begins, “not just sometimes, but always.”

Mr. Juster sent Milo through that magical tollbooth in an electric car and into a universe full of strange lands and characters. His first stop is a place called Expectations.

“Some people never go beyond Expectations,” a man there tells him, “but my job is to hurry them along whether they like it or not.”

The fellow dispensing that information is the Whether Man — “not the Weather Man,” as he explains to Milo, “for after all it’s more important to know whether there will be weather than what the weather will be.”

And so it goes, until by the end of his journey Milo is no longer the blasé boy he was at the start. The combination of Mr. Juster’s lively prose and Mr. Feiffer’s evocative drawings proved irresistible, and not just to children.


“Most books advertised for ‘readers of all ages’ fail to keep their promise,” Ann McGovern wrote in her review in The New York Times in 1961. “But Norton Juster’s amazing fantasy has something wonderful for anybody old enough to relish the allegorical wisdom of ‘Alice in Wonderland’ and the pointed whimsy of ‘The Wizard of Oz.’”

Mr. Feiffer, in a statement, reflected on the qualities Mr. Juster brought to the book and the impact his story has had on generations of readers.

“His singular quality was being mischievous,” Mr. Feiffer said. “He saw humor as turning everything on its head. It’s incredible the effect he had on millions of readers who turned ‘The Phantom Tollbooth’ into something of a cult or a religion.”

Mr. Juster, an architect by trade, called himself an “accidental writer,” but he went on to write other children’s books and reunited with Mr. Feiffer in 2010 on “The Odious Ogre.” In a 2012 interview with CNN, he talked about the key to writing for young readers.

“You have to retain, I guess, a good piece of the way you thought as a child,” he said. “I think if you lose all of that, that’s where the deadliness comes from. The idea of children looking at things differently is a precious thing. The most important thing you can do is notice.”

Norton Juster was born on June 2, 1929, in Brooklyn to Samuel and Minnie (Silberman) Juster, who were Romanian immigrants. His father was an architect, his mother a homemaker.

As a child Norton particularly enjoyed the “Wizard of Oz” book series, but he also dived into the books he found in his parents’ collection.

“They had several shelves of huge Russian and Yiddish novels all translated into English,” he told the children’s literacy site Reading Rockets, “but, you know, 1,200, 1,500 pages. And I would read them and have no idea what I was reading, but I just loved the language and the way you read it and how the words sounded. And I think that has always affected the way I write.”

Mr. Juster received a bachelor’s degree in architecture at the University of Pennsylvania in 1952, then was a Fulbright scholar in city planning at the University of Liverpool in England. After three years in the Navy’s engineering corps, he set up shop as an architect in New York.

In an introduction to a 1996 reissue of “The Phantom Tollbooth,” he said that the seed for the book was planted one day when a boy came up to him as Mr. Juster was waiting to be seated in a restaurant.

“He suddenly asked, ‘What’s the biggest number there is?’” Mr. Juster recalled. “It was a startling question. The kind that children are so good at. I asked him what he thought the biggest number was, and then told him to add one to it. He did the same to me. We continued back and forth and had a marvelous time talking about infinity and realizing that you simply couldn’t get there from here.”

“I was intrigued, and thrown back into my own childhood memories and the way I used to think about the mysteries of life,” he added. “So I started to compose what I thought would be a little story about a child’s confrontation with numbers and words and meanings and other strange concepts that are imposed on children.”

Maurice Sendak, whose famed children’s book “Where the Wild Things Are” came out two years after “Tollbooth,” remembered that period fondly as a time when children’s authors were pushing beyond the blandness of an earlier era — a time, he wrote in a 1996 edition of “Wild Things,” when “it was easy to stay clean and fresh, and wildly ourselves.”

But, Mr. Sendak lamented, time had shown that Mr. Juster’s conjuring of the various allegorical monsters that Milo encountered proved to be all too spot on.

“The Demons of Ignorance, the Gross Exaggeration (whose wicked teeth were made ‘only to mangle the truth’), and the shabby Threadbare Excuse are inside the walls of the Kingdom of Wisdom,” Mr. Sendak wrote, “while the Gorgons of Hate and Malice, the Overbearing Know-it-all, and most especially the Triple Demons of Compromise, are already established in high office all over the world.”

Mr. Juster’s later books included “Alberic the Wise and Other Journeys” (1965), illustrated by Domenico Gnoli, and “Otter Nonsense” (1982), illustrated by Eric Carle.

Mr. Juster continued to practice architecture into the 1990s and was a founding faculty member of Hampshire College in Amherst, Mass., where he continued to teach until 1992.

His wife of 54 years, Jeanne Ray, died in 2018. In addition to his daughter, he is survived by a granddaughter.

Mr. Juster would sometimes be faulted for his use of big or unfamiliar words in his children’s books, but he thought that challenging young readers was part of the point.

“To kids,” he said, “there are no difficult words, there are just words they have never come across before.”
Lenona
2021-03-11 03:07:06 UTC
Permalink
I could have sworn he lived in Amherst...

At any rate, I got to meet him a few years ago, at a lecture/book signing event.

Excerpts from the birthday tribute I posted in 2019 (the post includes Kirkus reviews, reader reviews, multiple interviews, and videos)

https://groups.google.com/g/rec.arts.books.childrens/c/etrRj1rYKnw/m/1nRX3XDuAQAJ

He called the movie of The Phantom Tollbooth "drivel." I don't blame him.

http://www.underdown.org/juster.htm
(long, fascinating interview from 2001)

From another 2001 interview, in Salon:

Q: One of the things that seems to really strike a chord with people
in "The Phantom Tollbooth" is Milo's state of mind at the book's
beginning: "When he was in school he longed to be out, and when he was
out he longed to be in. On the way he thought about coming home, and
coming home he thought about going. Wherever he was he wished he were
somewhere else, and when he got there he wondered why he'd bothered.
Nothing really interested him -- least of all the things that should
have." I suspect that the first thing people today would say about
Milo is that he's depressed.

A: That was a problem I had back then, too. Milo's not a dysfunctional
kid. He's very typical. I kept having to rewrite those sections
because I didn't want him to come across as someone who had these deep
psychological problems. He just couldn't figure out why he was being
oppressed by all these things. When you think about it, kids get an
extraordinary number of facts thrown at them, and nothing connects
with anything else. As you get older, all these threads begin to
appear, and you realize that almost everything you come across
connects to six other things that you know about.

Kids don't know this. You give them a date, or a historical figure, or
some fact in math or science and that's it. They're just disembodied
things that don't mean anything. Milo doesn't know where he fits in
any of this and why he has to learn all of it.

(snip)

What's interesting about that exchange is that while most American
reviewers simply wrote that Milo was "bored," at least one British
critic, instead, called him "spoiled."




Lenona.
Lenona
2021-03-11 03:39:38 UTC
Permalink
https://www.publishersweekly.com/pw/by-topic/childrens/childrens-authors/article/85776-obituary-norton-juster.html

Last two paragraphs:

Author and children’s literature historian Leonard S. Marcus worked on an annotated edition of Juster’s most popular book. He offered these words as tribute: “When asked what inspired him to write The Phantom Tollbooth, Norton liked to say that he wrote it to avoid having to think about another book for which the Ford Foundation had awarded him a grant. As 1950s Americans flocked to the suburbs in droves, it was to be an essay for teens on the rewards of urban living. The Foundation’s money had allowed him to quit his day job as an architect. But the research required for the project soon overwhelmed him—in much the same way that Milo feels overwhelmed by his schoolwork and the world of facts. Norton, too, needed to escape to the Lands Beyond! He never got around to writing the Ford book, and as a result he lived in dread for years afterward—or so he said—that the Foundation would come after him. While researching The Annotated Phantom Tollbooth, I stopped by the Foundation’s library one day and was able to track down Norton’s grant proposal on microfilm. When our APT was published, I dropped off a copy for the library’s collection. Norton laughed and said, ‘Maybe now I’m finally off the hook!’”

Author Suzanne Collins, a true Tollbooth devotee, who contributed a celebratory essay for a 50th-anniversary edition of the book, remembered her friend Juster this way: “I first met Norton during elementary school in the brilliant pages of The Phantom Tollbooth,” she recalled. “Our assignment was to write a new chapter for Milo and Tock, which turned out to be my first and only piece of fan fiction. Thirty-five years later, as we became friends, I realized where all the humor, kindness, sharp commentary, and joyousness in the book came from—straight from his heart. Mine’s breaking now, but it’s a comfort to know I will always be able to find the Whether Man on page 18. And that he will be there for generations to come.”
Lenona
2021-03-11 03:49:21 UTC
Permalink
Btw, regarding Milo's belief that, in school, "almost everything is a waste of time," I'm not sure where I heard this, but someone once said that when students ask what the point of learning X, Y, or Z is, one way to explain it is:

"If you're a carpenter, you bring a full tool box with you to your jobs. Chances are you won't be using every tool in that box, at every job, but it's good to know that each tool is available - and that you KNOW how to use each one."
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