Dear Norton Juster


By Robert Chondro

This letter is one of the 2019 “Letters About Literature” winners for the state of Nevada.

Dear Norton Juster,

Before reading your book, The Phantom Tollbooth, I never really gave a care about life. To me, it was a blur; wake up, go to school, come home, and repeat. At home, I would rush through all my homework, finish it just so I could get it done. I always took the closest way to do anything, instead of choosing the way where I could actually learn something. My whole attitude toward life irritated everyone around me, but try as I might (not that I tried very hard), I just couldn’t see life through a different pair of glasses. This all changed when I read your book, The Phantom Tollbooth. 

In the first few pages, the book seemed dull to me; there wasn’t any action, and it seemed like the kind of book only meant to teach people a lesson. It was as uninteresting as any other book I read. Soon enough though, I could almost relate to Milo. Nothing ever interested him, everything seemed like a waste of time, especially learning knowledge. As I flipped through the pages, I began to realize what a journey Milo was about to take. I laughed out loud at his conversation with the Whether Man, and I just had to call my aunt (she was the one who bought me the book) and share with her the comical Duke of Definition, Minister of Meaning, Earl of Essence, Count of Connotation, and Undersecretary of Understanding. I had always been the type of reader who wouldn’t put a book down until finished with it, but with this book, I went over the top. When it was time to go to bed, I didn’t want to, instead, I wanted to keep reading the book, experience the adventures of Milo as if I was also in the book; swim in the sea of knowledge, try to rescue Rhyme and Reason.

Finally, I finished the book. Without even realizing it, I read the whole book cover to cover, page after page, without skipping a line. I sat there in shock. Then came the immense sadness. I realized this was the end of a great adventure. I felt as if there was a hole in my body. I had just lost a great friend. I usually felt this way after reading a really good novel, but none impacted me as strongly as The Phantom Tollbooth. Immediately, I ripped open the book back to the first page and started to once again delve into the once murky adventures of The Phantom Tollbooth.

Throughout my fictional adventure with Milo and Tock, I learned a lot of things. You taught me how to appreciate life, cherish even the smallest moments. Looking back at how my life used to be, I cannot believe what a kind of mindset I used to have. Without reading your book, who knows, I might have continued with that kind of reasoning and god forbid what consequences would have befallen me. Now, I relish every single moment of my life; even at school, I try doing things that may benefit me in the long run, instead of taking the shortest route. Thank you.

From the bottom of my heart,

Robert Chondro is a student at Hyde Park Middle School in Las Vegas. His letter to Norton Juster, author of The Phantom Tollbooth, won first place for Level 1 in the 2019 Nevada Letters About Literature competition and advanced to the national level. In addition to his love of writing, Robert practices martial arts, piano, and chess. In his spare time, he likes to read and peruse the web of new stories, songs, and videos. 

Image/Robert Chondro

Cheyanne TreadwayThomas