The Rhyme and Reason of Words and Numbers: The Phantom Tollbooth

The Phantom TollboothThe Phantom Tollbooth by Norton Juster

“Words and numbers are of equal value, for, in the cloak of knowledge, one is warp and the other woof. It is no more important to count the sands than it is to name the stars.”


Do you consider yourself a Number person or a Word person? Have you noticed that many people prefer one over the other? I consider myself a “word nerd” — I tend to be a grammar cop, I’m a good speller, and I love reading, discussing books, and playing word games. On the other hand, someone who loves math and is good with numbers is often a bad speller and dislikes reading. (For example, they can remember a person’s phone number but not their name! Or like my son, who has managed to memorize 100 decimal places of pi, but would rather eat dirt than be required to memorize a 14-line sonnet!). The Phantom Tollbooth is an allegorical fantasy tale that plays up this rivalry between lovers of numbers and lovers of words.

Milo’s life lacked something, but he didn’t know what. He was bored with everything; nothing interested him, and he didn’t see the point in learning anything. Continue reading “The Rhyme and Reason of Words and Numbers: The Phantom Tollbooth”