Questions From a Kid: Norton Juster


(previous interviews in this series can be found here.)

Welcome to another installment of Questions From a Kid. Today, Zoey chats with legendary author Norton Juster.

Juster is most well known for his first book, The Phantom Tollbooth, which recently celebrated its 50th anniversary! The Phantom Tollbooth is perhaps the ultimate book of puns, wordplay, and double meanings. First published in 1961 (with illustrations by Jules Feiffer), it is the story of Milo’s adventures through the Kingdom of Wisdom to rescue the princesses Rhyme and Reason.

Along the way, he is joined by Tock the watchdog and the contrary Humbug, and they all travel through places such as Dictionopolis, the Doldrums, and Digitopolis. They conduct the sunrise, and they traverse the Mountains of Ignorance.

Not a sentence in this wonderful book is wasted, and it takes several readings to fully appreciate the craft and connections that hold The Phantom Tollbooth together.

Phantom Tollbooth

Juster also wrote The Dot and the Line — famously adapted to an Academy Award winning animated short by Chuck Jones — The Hello, Goodbye Window, and a second collaboration with Jules Feiffer, The Odious Ogre, among many other books.

Juster and Feiffer are the subjects of a new documentary about the making of The Phantom Tollbooth, Beyond Expectations. The flm was recently screened here in Washington, DC, at an event sponsored by the wonderful Smithsonian Associates.

Juster was in attendance to promote the film and do a Q&A on stage, and Zoey had the amazing opportunity to meet with him before the event.

As always, all questions are Zoey’s. I simply prompt her with “clue words” so she can remember. (Make sure you turn on subtitles if you can’t make out Zoey’s questions.)

Thanks so much to Norton Juster for taking the time to chat with Zoey and to Lauren Lyons with the Smithsonian Associates for helping to arrange the interview!

Jamie is a publishing/book nerd who makes a living by wrangling words together into some sense of coherence. He's the founder and owner of The Roarbots and also a contributor to Syfy Wire,, and GeekDad. On top of that, he hosts The Great Big Beautiful Podcast, which celebrates creativity in popular culture, science, and technology by talking to a wide variety of people who contribute to it.