After a perpetually bored young boy named Milo drives his toy car through the tollbooth that’s mysteriously appeared in his bedroom, he’s transported to the Kingdom of Wisdom, a magical land divided by a feud over whether letters or numbers are more important. Aided by his newfound companions, Tock the watchdog (a trusty pup with the body of an alarm clock) and the braggadocious Humbug, Milo must journey to the Castle in the Air to rescue the realm’s exiled princesses, Rhyme and Reason, on a quest that teaches him the true joy of learning. Norton Juster has described his debut novel as an “accidental masterpiece” that was inspired by his own childhood ennui. Accidental or not, the book (and 1970 animated film adaptation) have helped generations of children keep the doldrums at bay. —Megan McCluskey

Buy Now: The Phantom Tollbooth on Bookshop | Amazon

More Must-Reads from TIME

Contact us at