Tag Archives: imagination

The Phantom Tollbooth

Bibliographic Information: Juster, Norton. (1964). The Phantom Tollbooth. New York: Random House.

Plot Description: Bored and disinterested 10 year old Milo, is never satisfied with anything. He always longs to be somewhere else and when he gets there he wonders why he bothered going. One day he discovers a package containing a toy tollbooth and map to the Lands Beyond. He sets it up and drives his little toy car through the booth and into a fantastical adventure. He meets an array of interesting and unusual characters, such as Tock the watch dog, who is both figuratively and literally a watch dog, since he keeps watch to guard against time wasting and also has a giant clock in him. Along his journey Milo visits several lands, learning something new in each one, until he finally figures out how to enjoy the small pleasures of life.

Quantitative Reading Level: Lexile Measure: 1000L Interest Level: Middle Grades ATOS Book Level: 6.7

Qualitative Reading Analysis: The book features black and white drawings and is told by a third person narrator, who is credible, but only knows Milo’s thoughts. Figurative language is used throughout the novel. Many phrases in the story have both literal and figurative meaning. Some students may have trouble discerning the often multiple meanings behind names and ideas. The author uses satire and humor to convey meaning. Higher level vocabulary is used throughout the story. Students will likely expand their vocabulary reading this novel and can use context to help understand new words. There is most certainly a distance between the events of the text and the experiences of the reader and events will be unfamiliar to readers. However, readers may connect to Milo and his boredom, as everyone has experienced it at some point, though hopefully not as severely as Milo. Knowledge specific to the fantastical lands in the story are often explained to help readers understand how things work in the Lands Beyond, though the explanations may not always be clear.

Content Area: Reading, Literature, Mathematics

Content Area Standard:

English Language Arts Standards for Reading: Literature: Craft and Structure: CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RL.6.4 Determine the meaning of words and phrases as they are used in a text, including figurative and connotative meanings; analyze the impact of a specific word choice on meaning and tone.

English Language Arts Standards for Language: Vocabulary Acquisition and Use: CCSS.ELA-Literacy.L.6.4 Determine or clarify the meaning of unknown and multiple-meaning words and phrases based on grade 6 reading and content, choosing flexibly from a range of strategies.

English Language Arts Standards for Language: Vocabulary Acquisition and Use: CCSS.ELA-Literacy.L.6.4.a Use context (e.g., the overall meaning of a sentence or paragraph; a word’s position or function in a sentence) as a clue to the meaning of a word or phrase.

Curriculum Suggestions: Have students identify figurative language in the text and determine the often dual meanings (figurative and literal) using contextual clues. As they read, ask students to record character traits of Milo, Humbug and Tock throughout the story. Have students respond to the following quote about Milo: “He regarded the process of seeking knowledge as the greatest waste of time of all” (p. 2). Do you feel the same way? Why or why not? Why do you think Milo felt that way? How could you show Milo the importance of seeking knowledge?

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Awards: George C. Stone Centre for Children’s Books Award

Character names/descriptions: Milo, a ten year old boy who is in the doldrums. He is always bored and takes little interest in his surroundings.

Personal Thoughts: I enjoyed this book as a child and think it is still relevant today. Even with all the technology and countless ways to amuse oneself, many children are still bored by everything (maybe even more so than when the book was written). It has a great lesson for readers and it is very entertaining and funny.

High interest annotation: Everything bores young Milo, so perhaps a trip through the phantom tollbooth is just what he needs to embark on a journey of discovery that will change all that

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The Last of the Really Great Whangdoodles

Bibliographic Information: Andrews Edwards, Julie. (2004). The Last of the Really Great Whangdoodles. New York: Harper Trophy.

Plot Description: The Potter children meet an eccentric and brilliant professor who tells them of the special Whangdoodleland where the intelligent and magical creatures have gone when people stopped believing in them. Getting to Whangdoodleland is no easy feat and the children must use their patience and imagination in order to learn to see things in a new light and make the magical journey. Once there, they set out on a search for the last of the really great Whangdoodles (who is the king of the land and the wisest and most generous of all creatures). Along the way they meet a plethora of other magical creatures, such as sidewinders and gazooks. Most are good natured, friendly creatures, but some are not so nice. The ‘oily’ Prock, for example, will do anything he can to keep the humans from reaching the last of the really great Whangdoodles.

Quantitative Reading Level: Lexile Measure: 620L, Interest Level: Middle Grades, ATOS Book Level: 4.4

Qualitative Reading Analysis: The vocabulary is mostly familiar, but some phrases are a bit antiquated, such as ‘fiddlesticks’ and may be unfamiliar to young readers. There is also some academic language as the professor explains things to the children. As he explains it to the characters, it is also explained to the reader, so should not pose a challenge to comprehension. Some of the characters’ speech in Whangdoodleland is spelled phonetically to let the reader understand how it would sound, which may be a little confusing at first, for students with low reading levels. The novel also contains some more sophisticated vocabulary, which will challenge and help students grow their vocabulary. Illustrations are not used in the book. According to the author’s note in the front of the book, Andrew’s declined having illustrations added to the story because since it is a book about imagination, she felt it was more authentic to require readers to use their own imaginations to ‘see’ the land she creates in the story.

Content Area: Reading, Literature

Content Area Standard:

English Language Arts Standards: Language: Vocabulary Acquisition and Use: CCSS.ELA-Literacy.L.6.4.a Use context (e.g., the overall meaning of a sentence or paragraph; a word’s position or function in a sentence) as a clue to the meaning of a word or phrase.

English Language Arts Standards: Writing: Research to Build and Present Knowledge: CCSS.ELA-Literacy.W.6.8 Gather relevant information from multiple print and digital sources; assess the credibility of each source; and quote or paraphrase the data and conclusions of others while avoiding plagiarism and providing basic bibliographic information for sources.

Curriculum Suggestions: Make a Whangdoodle dictionary to keep track of all the Whangdoodleland specific terms and creatures you come across in the story. Your entries should follow the same format as a dictionary. Include the parts of speech, as well as a definition and example sentence from the text to show how the word is used in context. The professor explains cloning to the Potter children in the story. Do your own research about cloning (in particular animal cloning) and summarize your findings, using proper citation to avoid plagiarism.

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Character names/descriptions: The Potter children: Ben (13), Tom (10) & Lindy (7), who meet a strange and brilliant professor and travel with him on a quest to find the last of the really great whangdoodles. Professor Savant, a noble Prize winner who leads the children on their quest.

Edition: 30th Anniversary Edition with foreword by the author

Personal Thoughts: I absolutely loved this book as a child and I think its whimsical world holds up to the test of time. Andrew’s creates fantastical characters and lands that will capture children’s imagination well into the future.

High interest annotation: Join the Potter children as they learn to let their imaginations free and journey to the magical world of the last of the really great Whangdoodles.

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Filed under Reading For Pleasure (Chapter Books)