new england literary news

BPL series to host ‘Phantom Tollbooth’ author

A Jules Feiffer illustration from “The Phantom Tollbooth.”
A Jules Feiffer illustration from “The Phantom Tollbooth.”

When Norton Juster created the bored little boy Milo in “The Phantom Tollbooth,” he was thinking of himself. Juster, an architect turned children’s author, drew on his own childhood and his punster father when he created the novel’s Kingdom of Wisdom, Faintly Macabre, and the Mountains of Ignorance.

Published in 1961 by Epstein & Carroll, “Phantom” is illustrated by Juster’s friend Jules Feiffer. After selling the film rights, Juster left New York for Massachusetts, eventually settling in Amherst. He continued his careers as a children’s author and architect. The two interests came together when his firm, Juster, Pope and Frazier, designed the Eric Carle Museum of Picture Book Art in Amherst.

Juster is among the children’s authors the Boston Public Library is hosting in the coming weeks. Children are encouraged to attend and ask questions. Juster will speak at 6 p.m. on April 2. Also on the schedule: Marc Brown, creator, author, and illustrator of the “Arthur’’ series of books, on March 9 at 2 p.m.; Jeff Kinney, creator, author, and illustrator of the “Diary of a Wimpy Kid’’ series, on April 27 at 2 p.m., Jack Gantos, the author of more than 40 books, including the Rotten Ralph picture books and the Joey Pigza novels, on May 22 at 6 p.m.


Rounding out the “Gateway to Reading” Lowell Lecture Series will be presentations by children’s literacy advocates and scholars, including a talk at 6 p.m. May 1 by Maria Tatar, chairwoman of the program in folklore and mythology at Harvard and author of annotated editions of the Brothers Grimm and Peter Pan tales. At 6 p.m. May 13, Grace Lin, author and illustrator of picture books, early readers, and middle grade novels, will join a discussion on “Different Paths to Reading.” Other panelists are Alexandra Kennedy, executive director of the Carle museum, and Sonia Nieto, an expert on multiculturalism in education. Cathryn Mercier, director of the Center for the Study of Children’s Literature at Simmons College, will moderate.

Tribute to Iraq

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On Wednesday, the seventh anniversary of a car bomb that devastated al-Mutanabbi Street, Baghdad’s historic literary district, artists, poets, Iraqi citizens, and scholars will gather in Cambridge. Through readings and remarks from 6 to 8 p.m. at the Cambridge Arts Council, 344 Broadway, the group aims to affirm the importance of literature and challenge those who seek to destroy it. The event is one of more than two dozen taking place across the nation, in the United Kingdom, Canada, and at American University in Cairo. The readings have been organized in association with “Al-Mutanabbi Street Starts Here: A Response to Violence in Iraq From the Letterpress and Book Arts Community.”

Coming out

 “Plato at the Googleplex: Why Philosophy Won’t Go Away’’
by Rebecca Newberger Goldstein


 “Money: The Unauthorized Biography”by Felix Martin (Knopf)

 “You Can Date Boys When You’re Forty: Dave Barry on Parenting and Other Topics He Knows Very Little About”by Dave Barry (Putnam)

Pick of the week


Jean-Paul Adriaansen of Water Street Bookstore in Exeter, N.H., recommends “The Winter People” by Jennifer McMahon (Doubleday): ”What a great suspense novel about women in a rural town in Vermont, living in different centuries. How far would you go to see and talk to a deceased or lost beloved one? The red thread in this story is the diary of Sarah Harrison Shea who was found murdered shortly after the death of her young daughter Gertie.”

Jan Gardner can be reached at