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Children's book author reads at Discovery Station

June 30, 2007|By JOSHUA BOWMAN

The Authentic Community Theatre Ensemble brought the books of Norton Juster to life Saturday when they performed a version of Juster's popular story "The Phantom Tollbooth" at Discovery Station.

A group of actors read from scripts and sang their way through Juster's modern fairy tale for a group of more than 50 parents and children.

Juster, who was in attendance, called it a "wonderful performance" before he sat down to read from his newest book, "The Hello, Goodbye Window."

Juster said he began writing "to escape boredom and stay sane" while stationed in Newfoundland with the Navy in the mid-1950s.

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"The Phantom Tollbooth," which was published in 1961, was his first book. It is about a bored young boy named Milo who travels through a magical tollbooth to the Kingdom of Wisdom. Milo meets many people and strange creatures along the way, and has to use what he learns in Wisdom to defeat evil creatures and return home.

"It's a book about the doldrums, which I suffered from when I was first starting my writing career," said Juster, who noted that "The Phantom Tollbooth" grew out of his frustration with another project.

"I had been given a grant to work on a book about cities," Juster said. "I got bored with that and ended up writing 'The Phantom Tollbooth' instead."

Juster said his favorite authors are Italo Calvino, Gabriel Garcia Marquez and Michael Chabon.

"I like the fabulists, the magical storytellers," Juster said.

After reading from his book, Juster took questions from youngsters in the crowd, many of whom were clutching copies of "The Phantom Tollbooth." The questions ranged from how Juster came up with the character of Milo (he was based on Juster himself) to Juster's favorite brass instruments (trumpet and trombone).

"Do you ever base characters on your friends?" one girl asked.

"All the time," Juster said. "I think every character is at least partially made up of bits and pieces of someone you know. And I think there's always a little bit of myself in each of them, too."

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