Norton Juster, author of the best-selling children’s books The Phantom Tollbooth and The Dot and the Line, has died at the age of 91. His death was confirmed by his publisher Penguin Random House on Tuesday, but the cause was not revealed.
Children’s author and illustrator Mo Willems announced Juster’s death on Twitter on Tuesday. “My lunch partner, Norton Juster, ran out of stories and passed quietly last night. Best known for THE PHANTOM TOLLBOOTH + THE DOT & THE LINE, Norton’s greatest work was himself: a tapestry of charming tales. Strange, “he wrote, quoting the end of The Point and the Line:” To vector goes loot. “Author Philip Pullman joined the tributes, calling Juster” a wonderfully inventive writer and a truly charming man. “
The author of 12 books, Juster was born to two Jewish immigrants in New York in 1929. After studying architecture, he enrolled in the US Navy, where, although boring, he would write his first children’s story, an unpublished satirical fairy tale. , for which he was reprimanded by his commanding officer.
After three years in the navy, Juster was discharged and began living with cartoonist Jules Feiffer in 1960. The two housemates would work together on The Phantom Tollbooth, with Juster writing and Feiffer illustrating. Following a bored boy named Milo who drives through a magical toll booth into the troubled Kingdom of Wisdom and discovers his love of learning, the 1961 novel was filled with puns and puns. Juster was inspired by a wide range of his childhood favorites, including The Wind in the Willows and The Marx Brothers.
After a slow start to sales – Juster described his mother Minnie “terrorizing” bookstore owners to display the novel – The Phantom Tollbooth became a best-seller after several rave reviews. Critics compared it to Lewis Carroll’s Alice in Wonderland or L Frank Baum’s The Wonderful Wizard of Oz; New York critic Emily Maxwell quoted Bunyan’s The Pilgrim’s Progress and wrote: “As Pilgrim’s Progress is concerned with awakening the lazy spirit, The Phantom Tollbooth is concerned with awakening the lazy mind.” British author Diana Wynne Jones later spoke of reading her copy so often that it fell apart: “It didn’t occur to us that it might be about something. We found it a bit like The Wizard of Oz, only better. “
Juster’s debut became a worldwide bestseller, selling millions of copies and adapted for an opera, film and stage production. In 1963 he continued to write and illustrate The Point and the Line, a mathematical romance between a red point and a blue line. The book became a staple in America’s classrooms and was adapted into an animation that won the Academy Award 1965 for animated short film.
Despite his success as a children’s author, Juster would continue to work in architecture for another three decades, co-founded an architecture studio, and worked as a professor of architecture at Hampshire College until his retirement in 1992. He continued to write children’s books, with his 2005 book The Hello, Goodbye Window winning the Caldecott Medal for illustrator Chris Raschka.
In 2011, he reflected on the continued success of the Phantom Tollbooth, tell NPR: “Today’s world of texting and tweeting is quite a different place, but kids are still the same as ever. They are still bored and confused, and still struggling to resolve the important issues in life. Well, one thing has changed: Since many states eliminate highway tolls, some children may never find an actual toll. Fortunately, there are other routes to Lands Beyond. And they are searchable, and fun to try. “
George is Digismak’s reported cum editor with 13 years of experience in Journalism