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Historical Society celebrates ‘The Phantom Tollbooth’ and its Brooklyn roots

Brooklyn Daily

The “Phantom Tollbooth” is one of the most beloved children’s books of all time — and it might be the most Brooklyn one, too.

Consider that author Norton Juster and cartoonist Jules Feiffer, who illustrated the book, met and decided to collaborate after realizing that they lived in the same Brooklyn Heights building.

“The idea of a tollbooth is very New York, but the idea that Jules Feiffer lived above Norton Juster in Brooklyn Heights — it’s so neighborhoody,” said Keara Duggan of the Brooklyn Historical Society, which will host Juster for a 50th anniversary event on Nov. 11.

“In Brooklyn, people live together and wind up collaborating — there’s something very special about this place,” she added. “This shows the Brooklyn roots of ‘The Phantom Tollbooth,’ which aren’t particularly well-known to the general audience.”

Do we really need the following paragraph? Sigh, for the rock-dwellers among us, “The Phantom Tollbooth” tells the story of a maudlin little boy named Milo, who drives through the titular gateway in a toy car, and finds himself in a fantastical world full of riddles, puzzles and peculiar characters.

In celebrating “The Phantom Tollbooth,” with Juster himself — who is now 82 years old — organizers hope to pique the interest of today’s generation of young Brooklynites.

“There’s such an intimate connection between Brooklyn and Juster,” Duggan said. “So many of us grew up with ‘The Phantom Tollbooth’ — 50 years later, we hope to promote it to a whole new generation.”

Norton Juster’s “The Phantom Tollbooth” 50th anniversary at the Brooklyn Historical Society [128 Pierrepont St. between Clinton Street and Monroe Place in Brooklyn Heights, (718) 222-4111], Nov. 13, 2 pm. Free with RSVP. For info, visit

Reach Arts Editor Juliet Linderman at or by calling (718) 260-8309.

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