With the recent passing of Norton Juster, I’m reflecting on the importance of The Phantom Tollbooth in my life. It’s a must-read classic.
Tollbooth was the first chapter book I read back in grade school and has become a substantial part of our family lore. The 1966 book opens with a bored young man named Milo and soon whisks him into the Lands Beyond. He joins forces with a watchdog named Tock and meets unforgettable characters like the Whether Man, King Azaz, and the Spelling Bee. Milo’s mission is to climb the Mountains of Ignorance, conquer a slew of unconventional demons, and rescue the Princesses Rhyme and Reason.
One Christmas, my daughter, Rae Anne, bought me a collector’s edition of The Phantom Tollbooth signed by the author and illustrator. An illustration in my very first book, Once upon a Tandem, was inspired by one of Jules Feiffer’s illustrations. My eldest, Alec, was named after one of the characters in the book.
I’ve purchased and given away probably a dozen copies of The Phantom Tollbooth. Especially to kids between 8 and 15. Especially to boys named Alec.
I love giving away books. And you should, too.
My wife, Rita, has given away dozens of copies of the book, You Are My World: How a Parent’s Love Shapes a Baby’s Mind by Amy Hatkoff. That book exactly reflects Rita’s heart and experience when it comes to nurturing babies and she gives them out to just about every new mom she knows. Including our own daughters-in-law. I actually contacted the author and bought a case of that book.
One of my biggest thrills is when a grandfather buys a copy of my best-seller 52 Things Kids Need from a Dad to give to his son or son-in-law. That older gentleman is not just giving an encouraging gift. He’s resourcing that younger dad, confirming the importance of intentional fathering, and impacting his grandkids and generations to come.
The best books to give away are ones you’ve read and loved. For sure, some books you’ll want to keep for future reference or to reread. But with all the others, you can certainly think of someone who would gratefully receive your gift. No strings attached.
Finally, the Payleitner family has also given away Bibles. It’s humbling to think that a Bible we’ve pulled off our shelves or purchased specifically for a friend or acquaintance might be impacting and guiding that person’s life this very moment. Psalm 119:105 promises, “Your word is a lamp for my feet, a light on my path.”