Reinterpretation of the Phantom Tollbooth from Norton Juster, as imagined by Lisette | Skillshare Projects



Reinterpretation of the Phantom Tollbooth from Norton Juster, as imagined by Lisette

This is close to what I want. It is a little busier than I would like, but I wanted to give a sense of how overwhelmed Milo is by the characters he meets in the lands beyond. In a perfect world (for the 100th anniversary?) I would want the toll sign on a vellum dust jacket with all the characters arrayed on the hard cover in black and white, maybe some watercolor tinting but it may end up being too much.

A design student's re-interpretation of the cover.

 The movie poster This is another design student's reinterpretation. 

The Phantom Tollbooth was one of my favorite stories from my childhood and I still read it almost yearly. It is the story of a bored boy and his adventures in the land beyond. It is full of clever puns and has amazing Jules Feiffer illustrations that the typical cover, the middle and left hand versions, only hint at. The book came out in 1962 in what was the heyday of children's literature. Juster was being published alongside Madeleine L'engle, writer/illustrator Maurice Sendak, and Kay Thompson (the Eloise books) which were illustrated by Hilary Knight. What I loved about these books as a child and still love is that none of them talk down to children. Yes, children get bored and petty and can be miserable but they can also be smart, and funny, and solve problems on their own. 

The only version of the cover I'd ever seen was the first one and that is the one they used for the 50th anniversary edition (middle). The more colorful cover (a 2008 version) I only found in my web search for the book cover image. It gives a better hint at the journey which is what I would want to do in my version. However, I don't think it is very satisfying.

To begin with, you lose the wonderful Jules Feiffer illustrations which are so much more evocative than the cartoon versions they have there. The overall look of the cover is very dark and there is a sense of foreboding with the boy traveling the guantlet of these strange creatures and the over hanging (malevolent?) trees. It almost looks as though someone had read "The Wizard of Oz" and said well that will work here.

Then there is the boy. I understand the desire to update the work for a new audience but this is a very modern bright boy. His posture is erect he is looking out at these creatures and ready to engage them. This would be the complete opposite of Milo, the boy in the story, and I can't imagine would make any sense to a modern child. Unless that child was thinking that this was a video game he was going to dive into. 

As much as I love the book I didn't buy the 50th anniversary hard back version. I felt then (2012) and now that the publisher lost an opportunity to do something fabulous with the cover. The original is wonderful in it's own way and is now something of an icon if for no other reason that it was never updated. but it doesn't give the reader a hint of the magic that is inside. It is almost a plain brown, well teal actually, wrapper. 

If I can manage to come up with the techniques to do the design I envision I want to give the reader a taste of the journey, pull them in and make them question what it is all about. Which is exactly what the story ultimately asks children to do. I also hope to modernize it just a touch without resorting to the cartooning they used in 2008.

11/25 addendum:

Added some more images. 2 student redesigns and the movie poster. I've been researching and downloading typefaces. I finally found what I want to use. I even managed to find a digitized copy of the book complete with images. Yeah!! I don't have to work with crappy scans! This is coming along better than I had hoped. I think I want to try 3 different options. One very minimalistic with just the type, one riffing on the map that is in the front of the book, and one that is the cacophony of characters Milo meets and includes the typography I've found.


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