Norton Juster, author of ‘The Phantom Tollbooth’, dead at 91 | New York News
NEW YORK (AP) – Norton Juster, the celebrated children’s book author who has created a world full of adventure and tricky pandemic in the million-selling classic “The Phantom Tollbooth” and who has remained true to his wide-eyed self in favorites such as “The Dot and the Line” and “Stark Naked” is at 91 died.
Juster’s death was confirmed Tuesday by a spokesman for Random House Children’s Books who did not immediately provide details. Juster’s friend and co-author Mo Willems tweeted on Tuesday that Juster “has no more stories” the night before and died “peacefully”.
“Norton’s greatest work was himself: a tapestry of delightful stories,” wrote Willems.
“The Phantom Tollbooth”, published in 1961, followed young Milo’s adventures through the Kingdom of Wisdom, a land stretching from the Foothills of Confusion to the Valley of Sound and the endangered Princesses Rhyme and Reason and the fearsome Gorgons of the Peoples hatred and malice.
The drawings were made available by his roommate at the time, Jules Feiffer, who later worked with Juster on “The Odious Ogre,” which was published in 2010. Eric Carle of “The Very Hungry Caterpillar” illustrated Juster’s “Otter Nonsense,” which came out in 1982.
As Juster wrote in the introduction to a new edition of The Phantom Tollbooth from 1999, he first thought of the book when he was in his late twenties and worked in an architecture firm in New York City. He wondered how a child could, how people deal with the world around them.
He had received a grant to write a book on urban planning and spent months researching before Juster’s “surprising” question from a boy overheard in a restaurant changed his story and his life: “What is the greatest number there is?”
“I started composing what I thought about exposing a child to numbers, words and meanings and other strange concepts that are imposed on children,” he wrote. “I loved the opportunity to turn things upside down and indulge in all the bad jokes, puns, and puns that my dad had imagined growing up.”
Another admirer of Juster, Maurice Sendak, praised the book’s “excitement and delight in wonderful, crazy linguistic acrobatics”. A 1970 film adaptation of The Munsters’ Butch Patrick, and The Phantom Tollbooth later turned into a musical with a score by Arnold Black and lyrics by Sheldon Harnick.
Juster’s 54-year-old wife, Jeanne, died in 2018. They had a daughter, Emily.
Born in New York, Juster was the son and brother of architects, and he never completely abandoned his family craft. He went on to write books while co-founding the Juster Pope Associates architectural firm in Shelburne Falls, Massachusetts, and his stories often combined his seemingly opposing talents for structure and absurdity.
“The point and the line: A romance in mathematics” is a love triangle that only Juster could have imagined – between a straight line and a straight line, a dotty point and a swinging curl. (Animator Chuck Jones turned it into an Oscar winning short film).
“Stark Naked” finds a stripped protagonist in the city of Emotional Heights, who meets characters like the intellectual Noel Lott and the headmaster Martin Nett.
Juster’s recent stories include “The Hello, Goodbye Window”, for which illustrator Chris Raschka received a Caldecott Medal, and the sequel, “Sourpuss and Sweetie Pie”. A project he never got around to: the book on urban planning.
“The funny thing is that a lot of the things I thought about for this book found their way into ‘The Phantom Tollbooth’,” he wrote in 1999. “Maybe I’ll come back to this one day if I try.” Avoid doing anything else. “
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