Here’s how K. T. Horning begins her review of The Annotated Phantom Tollbooth in the November/December 2011 Horn Book Magazine:
“If ever there were a twentieth-century children’s book that deserved an annotated edition, it’s Juster and Feiffer’s masterpiece, first published fifty years ago.”
And what did the Horn Book have to say about said masterpiece when it was originally published in 1961?
Nothing. Absolutely nothing. The book isn’t even mentioned until two years later, in the June 1963 issue. There, a crotchety and shortsighted David C. Davis, children’s literature professor at the University of Wisconsin, pans it in a grumpy article entitled, “Who’ll Kill the Mockingbirds?”
Mr. Davis begins: “The most overrated piece of writing reeking of blatant imitation appeared recently in Norman [sic] Juster’s The Phantom Tollbooth.”
And it goes downhill from there: “Had the book been given reliable critical analysis, it would never have reached the pages of a national magazine for previewing. To the children who love Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, The Wind in the Willows, and The Hobbit, this was a hodgepodge of words, dull, unrewarding, and completely lacking in humor, satire, or subtlety.”
What a difference fifty years can make.