Norton Juster, ‘The Phantom Tollbooth’ author, dead at 91

NEW YORK — Norton Juster, the celebrated youngsters’s writer who customary a world of journey and punning punditry within the million-selling basic “The Phantom Tollbooth” and remained true to his wide-eyed self in such favorites as “The Dot and the Line” and “Stark Naked,” has died at 91.

Juster’s dying was confirmed Tuesday by a spokesperson for Random House Children’s Books, who didn’t instantly present particulars. Juster’s buddy and fellow writer Mo Willems tweeted Tuesday that Juster “ran out of tales” and died “peacefully” the night time earlier than.

“Norton’s best work was himself: a tapestry of pleasant tales,” Willems wrote.

“The Phantom Tollbooth,” revealed in 1961, adopted the adventures of younger Milo by way of the Kingdom of Wisdom, a land extending from The Foothills of Confusion to The Valley of Sound, populated by the imperiled princesses Rhyme and Reason and the fearsome Gorgons of Hate and Malice.

Drawings have been supplied by his roommate at the time, Jules Feiffer, who would later collaborate with Juster on “The Odious Ogre,” revealed in 2010. Eric Carle of “The Very Hungry Caterpillar” fame illustrated Juster’s “Otter Nonsense,” which got here out in 1982.

As Juster wrote within the introduction to a 1999 reissue of “The Phantom Tollbooth,” he first considered the e book when he was in his late 20s and dealing at an architectural agency in New York City. He discovered himself questioning, the way in which a baby may, about how folks relate to the world round them.

He had acquired a grant for a e book on city planning and spent months researching it earlier than a boy’s “startling” query — overheard by Juster in a restaurant — modified his narrative and adjusted his life: “What’s the largest quantity there may be?”

“I began to compose what I believed can be a couple of kid’s confrontation with numbers and phrases and meanings and different unusual ideas which might be imposed on youngsters,” he wrote. “I liked the chance to turns issues the wrong way up and inside out and take pleasure in all of the dangerous jokes and puns and wordplay that my father had launched me to once I was rising up.”

Norton Juster's "The Phantom Tollbooth" was turned into a 1970 movie starring Butch Patrick.
Norton Juster’s “The Phantom Tollbooth” was changed into a 1970 film starring Butch Patrick.
Everett Collection

Another Juster admirer, Maurice Sendak, would reward the e book’s “pleasure and sheer enjoyment of superb lunatic linguistic acrobatics.” A 1970 movie adaptation starred Butch Patrick of “The Munsters” fame, and “The Phantom Tollbooth” was later made right into a musical, with a rating by Arnold Black and lyrics by Sheldon Harnick.

Juster’s spouse of 54 years, Jeanne, died in 2018. They had a daughter, Emily.

Juster, a local of New York City, was the son and brother of architects and he by no means turned fully from his household craft. He continued to write down books, whereas co-founding the architectural agency Juster Pope Associates, in Shelburne Falls, Massachusetts, and his tales usually mixed his seemingly reverse presents for construction and absurdity.

“The Dot and the Line: A Romance in Mathematics” is a love triangle as solely Juster may have imagined — between a straight and straight-laced line, a dotty dot and a swinging squiggle. (Animator Chuck Jones tailored it into an Oscar-winning quick movie.)

“Stark Naked” finds an undressed protagonist wandering within the city of Emotional Heights, encountering such characters because the mental Noel Lott and faculty principal Martin Nett.

Juster’s more moderen tales included “The Hello, Goodbye Window,” for which illustrator Chris Raschka acquired a Caldecott Medal, and the sequel “Sourpuss and Sweetie Pie.” One undertaking he by no means bought round to: that e book on city planning.

“The humorous factor is that lots of the issues I used to be eager about for that e book did discover their method into ‘The Phantom Tollbooth,'” he wrote in 1999. “Maybe sometime I’ll get again to it when I’m making an attempt to keep away from doing one thing else.”



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