The Phantom Tollbooth (1961)

“So many things are possible just as long as you don’t know they’re impossible.”

The Phantom Tollbooth

Author: Norton Juster

Illustrator: Jules Feiffer

Genre: Fantasy

Rating: 6.5/10

Now I know what you’re thinking. This is a children’s book! Yes, but so what? As the great C.S. Lewis rightfully noted, “A children’s story that can only be enjoyed by children is not a good children’s story in the slightest.”

I remember reading this book for the first time when I was in third grade. The shiny blue cover caught my attention, but what truly had me hooked was the book’s crisp pages that crinkled whenever I turned them. In an attempt to recreate this lovely experience, to grasp at the remnants of my childhood, I decided to purchase the book. Perhaps I would find little nuggets of wisdom within it that had not quite registered when I was younger. And find them I did.

“There are no wrong roads to anywhere.”

The story focuses on a young boy named Milo who is completely uninterested in the world around him. One day, he discovers a mysterious package in his room through which he finds himself in a topsy-turvy world. As he embarks on an adventure of a lifetime, he runs into numerous characters and ultimately discovers that life is anything but a bore.

Maurice Sendak observes that the Tollbooth is primarily concerned with the “awakening of the lazy mind” and treats “the dread problems of excessive specialization, lack of communication, conformity, cupidity, and all the alarming ills of our time”. It does all this while maintaining a light and playful tone (frequently compared to Lewis Carroll’s Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland), conveying truths that we often forget as we go about our hectic lives. Don’t be fooled by Juster’s simple words, they are guaranteed to make you stop and appreciate the wisdom behind them.

In addition, the book contains the scratchy illustrations of Jules Feiffer that are especially fun to examine while reading. It even includes a map of the world within the tollbooth, which is always a big plus in my opinion. A short and easy read for young children, it can also be equally satisfying for adults as well. I’m sure it will put a smile on your face and maybe even draw a low chuckle out of you.

“You must never feel badly about making mistakes … 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.”

The Wind Rises (2013)

“Le vent se lève. Il faut tenter de vivre.”

The Wind Rises (風立ちぬ)

Director: Hayao Miyazaki

Genre: Animation/Biography/Drama

Rating: 8.5/10

 

I’ll admit it. I have a soft spot for any Studio Ghibli film made by Hayao Miyazaki and I know I’m not alone in this. The inescapable fact that this is his final work continues to haunt me. Maybe that’s why I just can’t bring myself to rate it higher. I feel like my heart’s been ripped out, trampled on by a herd of giraffes, devoured, and finally pooped out by a koala. Eventually I’m going to have to accept the fact that it’s time to move on. But today is not that day.

Before you watch this film, you should know that it is not as action-packed as the likes of “Spirited Away” or “Howl’s Moving Castle”. No, I’d say it has more in common with “From Up on Poppy Hill” or “The Secret World of Arietty” in that it moves at a slower pace. This does not, however, diminish its value in any way.

As a bibliographical film, the focus is on the life of Jiro Horikoshi (1903-1982), designer of the Japanese fighter planes (Mitsubishi A5M AKA “Zero” planes) during World War II. Alongside his growth as an inventor is the heart-wrenching love story between him and Naoko Satomi.

I highly recommend this movie to all die-hard Studio Ghibli fans. Even if you’re not one, you should watch it anyway because I say so. The amount of detail and care put into every scene is astounding. Visually arresting and tear-jerking; even the toughest of you won’t help but weep silently. I know that it made me tear up at least four times, reducing me to a blubbering mess.

You should watch it because it’s the “farewell masterpiece” of an award-winning director. I don’t know how I’m going to survive knowing I’ll never get a new Miyazaki film. His works have captured the hearts of people all over the world and I do not doubt that his creations will continue to inspire and amaze millions even after he has put down pen and paper.

Which Studio Ghibli film is your favorite?

i n t r o d u c t i o n s

Little Me never liked keeping a “reading journal” in school. What was the point? I’d read the book and was ready to move on. Whatever impressions I’d had after finishing it did not need to be disclosed to the rest of the world.

Fast-forward about ten years and I find myself creating a blog where I will be (willingly) discussing my thoughts on not only books but films as well! Who knew I could successfully delude myself into thinking this was a good idea? And so without further ado, here you shall find my biased and blunt (but hopefully beneficial) opinion on every book and film I stumble across from this point onward.

My reviews will be available for all to see and may or may not be a complete waste of your time. Don’t come running to me declaring I’m an evil nincompoop for frittering away precious seconds of your time.

You have been warned. Now let us begin.

Blurbabble is open for business.