Slice of Life 2021 Day 10: In Memoriam

Today marks Day 10 of the Slice of Life challenge. Join me as I work to write every day in March – and beyond!

I was saddened to learn of the death of Norton Juster. Here’s my little tribute.

Dear Mr. Juster,

My name is Lainie. I’m a fan.

I first read “Phantom Tollbooth” when I was a fifth grader. Your book changed my world.

Mr. Juster, I had always been a reader growing up. I worked voraciously through Beverly Cleary, through Judy Blume, through Roald Dahl. And I’d always enjoyed reading, and I’d always imagined the worlds that authors brought me, and I always enjoyed the time I spent with the characters.

But Milo. And the adventures he had in the Lands Beyond.

Mr. Juster, you wrote a book that was CLEVER. And SMART. A book that spoke directly to me. A book that was written just for me. You never made any assumptions about me as a kid. You never shrugged your shoulders and dumbed things down because you were just writing a kids’ book. No, you put all of your wit and energy and wonder between those pages, and you did it in a way that refused to underestimate me, as so many of the adults in my life often did.

You wrote the book I needed. A book I deserved. And in return, I’ve given that book to countless other kids who need that book, kids who need to see cleverness and joy in print. I know they won’t get all the jokes. I know that some of the ideas will be over their heads. I just make my kids promise me they’ll read the book again when they’re grown-ups so they can go back for all the fun stuff they missed the first time.

Mr. Juster, you were the grown-up so many children need in their lives. For that, you will be sorely missed.

With Gratitude,
P.S. I also think your book “The Dot and the Line” was way underrated, and I hope people discover it. I just had to put that out into the world. I’m also posting this video of the story in case folks want to follow their curiosity.

Published by Lainie Levin

Mom of two, full-time teacher, wife, daughter, sister, friend, and holder of a very full plate

14 thoughts on “Slice of Life 2021 Day 10: In Memoriam

  1. OMG! I had no idea her wrote The Phantom Tollbooth! I thought you were going to say The Hello Goodbye Window, which is also one of his, and one of my all time favorite children’s books. I never connected the two reads to him, and both are outstanding. I am so grateful to you for honoring him in your slice. Were it not for you, I would not have known. Thank you for a beautiful slice tributizing a very talented human being. Bravo!

  2. I did not discover tis book until I was an adult and I immediately fell in love with it. As you say, it was written for young adults but not in a condescending way.

    1. Yes! It’s kind of like how I felt the Muppets were – entertaining for kids, with enough sophisticated humor to keep all happy. (Yes, I know the Muppets have been a bit…problematic lately, but I still do love them!)

  3. Now I’m going to have to go look it up! I can’t remember if I read this myself or if parts were read aloud to me. Your post has made me curious which is what a good piece of writing does for readers! Thank you!

    1. Thank YOU! It *is* a pretty fun and clever read. I’m glad my post inspired you in one direction or another. It’s all we can ask!

  4. Lainie, I love this post! The way you repeated Mr. Juster was so engaging. It also makes me think of how having students write letters to the authors they love can be so powerful and authentic! I love this idea for a future slice.

    1. Thanks! I like the idea of having kids reflect as well – I’m trying to think of a way to do it so it feels genuine for the kids. Maybe it’s an option for kids after they’ve read a book that really “reaches” them…?

  5. Laine your letter of gratitude has shared a lot about your reading life as a child. The letter format is also a nice and personal way of showing how much his books made a mark on your life. The letter also works as a promotion for his books and I hope I get to read them as soon as possible. Thank you for the introduction.

  6. Poignant tribute, Lainie – has me thinking about just how much we owe authors of books we loved as children, and those we love now. We’re a compilation of those things, the scenes, the phrases. We carry them with us always.

    1. Oh Fran you are right as always. We are built of words. There’s probably another poem there, methinks.

  7. I read this book in 7th grade and loved it. I remember Milo & his car and good & faithful Tock. I thought this book was clever when I first read it. A couple of years ago I re-read it with my class. What I wasn’t expecting was towards the end when Princesses Rhyme & Reason are talking to Milo. I can’t quite remember what they say but I do remember getting a little choked up while reading it aloud.

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