Norton Juster

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Norton Philip Juster
Norton Juster at home in Massachusetts.jpg
Born(1929-06-02)June 2, 1929
Brooklyn, New York, U.S.
DiedMarch 8, 2021(2021-03-08) (aged 91)
Northampton, Massachusetts, U.S.
OccupationAcademic, writer
Alma materUniversity of Pennsylvania
Period1961–2021 (children's writer)
GenreChildren's fiction, wordplay
Notable worksThe Phantom Tollbooth
The Dot and the Line

Norton Juster (June 2, 1929 – March 8, 2021) was an American academic, architect, and writer. He was best known as an author of children's books, notably for The Phantom Tollbooth and The Dot and the Line.

Early life[edit]

Juster was born in Brooklyn on June 2, 1929.[1] Both his parents were Jewish and immigrated to the United States.[2] His father, Samuel Juster, was born in Romania and became an architect through a correspondence course. His mother, Minnie Silberman, was of Polish Jewish descent.[3] His brother, Howard, became an architect as well. Juster studied architecture at the University of Pennsylvania,[4] obtaining a bachelor's degree in 1952. He went on to study city planning at the University of Liverpool.[1]


Juster enlisted in the Civil Engineer Corps of the United States Navy in 1954, and rose to the rank of lieutenant junior grade. During one tour, to combat boredom, he began to write and illustrate a story for children, but the commanding officer later reprimanded him for it.[3]: xvii  Still, Juster also finished an unpublished satirical fairy tale called "The Passing of Irving".[3]: xviii  Later posted in the Brooklyn Navy Yard, again to combat boredom, he made up a non-existent military publication called the Naval News Service as a scheme to request interviews with attractive women.[5] It worked so amazingly well that a neighbor asked to come along as his assistant. His next scheme was to make the "Garibaldi Society" (inspired by a statue in Washington Square Park), whose raison d'être was to reject anyone who applied for membership, designing an impressive logo, application, and rejection letter. It was at this time he met Jules Feiffer while taking out the trash.[3]: xviii 

Approximately six months after meeting Feiffer, Juster received his discharge from the Navy, and worked for a Manhattan architectural firm. He also did some part-time teaching and undertook other jobs. Juster, Feiffer, and another friend rented an apartment on State Street. Juster also resorted to pulling pranks occasionally on Feiffer.[3]: xxiii  Juster's children's novel, The Phantom Tollbooth, was published in 1961, with Feiffer doing the drawings.[1][6] This was followed by The Dot and the Line (1963), which became a standard book in classrooms around the country.[2] Juster went on to author Alberic the Wise and Other Journeys (1965), Stark Naked: A Paranomastic Odyssey (1969), Otter Nonsense (1982), and As Silly as Knees, as Busy as Bees (1998), among other works.[1] He also published A Woman's Place: Yesterday's Women in Rural America in 1996 for an adult audience, based on his personal experience of residing on a farm in Massachusetts.[1]

Although Juster enjoyed writing, his architectural career remained his primary emphasis. He served as a professor of architecture and environmental design at Hampshire College from 1970 to 1992, when he retired.[7] He also co-founded a small architectural firm, Juster Pope Associates, in Shelburne Falls, Massachusetts,[8] in 1970. The firm was renamed Juster Pope Frazier after Jack Frazier joined the firm in 1978.[9]

Later life[edit]

Juster lived in Massachusetts during his later years.[6] His wife, Jeanne, died in October 2018 after 54 years of marriage.[1][10] Although he retired from architecture, he continued to write for many years. His book The Hello, Goodbye Window, published May 15, 2005, won the Caldecott Medal for Chris Raschka's illustration in 2006.[1] The sequel, Sourpuss and Sweetie Pie, was published in 2008.[11][12] Two years later, he teamed up again with Feiffer for The Odious Ogre.[1][8]

Juster died on March 8, 2021, at his home in Northampton, Massachusetts. He was 91, and suffered from complications of a stroke prior to his death.[6][13]


  • The Phantom Tollbooth (1961) (ISBN 0-394-81500-9) illustrated by Jules Feiffer
  • The Dot and the Line: A Romance in Lower Mathematics (1963) (ISBN 1-58717-066-3)
  • Alberic the Wise and Other Journeys (1965) (ISBN 0-88708-243-2)
  • Stark Naked: A Paranomastic Odyssey (1969) (Library of Congress Catalog Card No. 71-85568), illus. Arnold Roth
  • So Sweet to Labor: Rural Women in America 1865-1895 (editor) (1979) (ISBN 0-670-65483-3) — non-fiction
  • Otter Nonsense (1982) (ISBN 0-399-20932-8), illus. Eric Carle
  • As: A Surfeit of Similes (1989) (ISBN 0-688-08139-8)
  • A Woman's Place: Yesterday's Women in Rural America (1996) (ISBN 1-55591-250-8) — non-fiction
  • The Hello, Goodbye Window (Michael Di Capua Books, 2005) (ISBN 0-7868-0914-0), illus. Chris Raschka
  • Sourpuss and Sweetie Pie (2008) (ISBN 9780439929431), illus. Chris Raschka
  • The Odious Ogre (2010) (ISBN 0-545-16202-5), illus. Jules Feiffer
  • Neville (2011) (ISBN 0375867651/ISBN 978-0375867651), illus. G. Brian Karas

Other media[edit]

Both The Phantom Tollbooth and The Dot and the Line were adapted into films by animator Chuck Jones.[1][14] The latter film received the 1966 Academy Award for Best Animated Short Film.[15]

The Phantom Tollbooth was also adapted into a musical by Norton Juster and Sheldon Harnick, with lyrics by Sheldon Harnick and music composed by Arnold Black.[16]

There have been musical settings of "A Colorful Symphony" from The Phantom Tollbooth for narrator and orchestra and of The Dot and the Line for narrator and chamber ensemble by composer Robert Xavier Rodriguez.[17]


  1. ^ a b c d e f g h i Langer, Emily (March 9, 2021). "Norton Juster, who conjured worlds of wordplay in 'Phantom Tollbooth,' dies at 91". The Washington Post. Retrieved March 9, 2021.
  2. ^ a b Cain, Sian (March 9, 2021). "Norton Juster, author of The Phantom Tollbooth, dies aged 91". The Guardian. London. Retrieved March 9, 2021.
  3. ^ a b c d e Juster, Norton (2011). The Annotated Phantom Tollbooth. Alfred A. Knopf. ISBN 9780375857157.
  4. ^ "Norton Juster Biography". Scholastic.
  5. ^ Salter, Colin (April 3, 2020). 100 Children's Books: that inspire our world. Pavilion Books. ISBN 9781911663317.
  6. ^ a b c Genzlinger, Neil (March 9, 2021). "Norton Juster, Who Wrote 'The Phantom Tollbooth,' Dies at 91". The New York Times. Retrieved March 9, 2021.
  7. ^ "Screening of 'Phantom Tollbooth' Documentary". Amherst, Massachusetts: Hampshire College. September 10, 2013. Retrieved March 9, 2021.
  8. ^ a b "Norton Juster, 'The Phantom Tollbooth' author, dead at 91". Associated Press. March 9, 2021. Retrieved March 9, 2021.
  9. ^ "The Phantom Tollbooth – A Study Guide for Classroom Teachers" (PDF). Philadelphia: Enchantment Theatre Company. p. 8. Retrieved March 9, 2021.
  10. ^ "Jeanne Juster Obituary - Amherst, MA | The Recorder". June 2, 2019. Archived from the original on June 2, 2019. Retrieved June 2, 2019.
  11. ^ Flynn, Anne-Gerard (March 31, 2018). "'Phantom Tollbooth' talk to feature creators Norton Juster, Jules Feiffer". The Republican. Springfield, Massachusetts. Retrieved March 9, 2021.
  12. ^ Juster, Norton (2008). Sourpuss and Sweetie Pie. Michael Di Capua Books. ISBN 9780439929431.
  13. ^ Liptak, Andrew (March 9, 2021). "The Phantom Tollbooth Author Norton Juster Has Died at the Age of 91". Retrieved March 9, 2021.
  14. ^ Blistein, Jon (March 9, 2021). "'The Phantom Tollbooth' Author Norton Juster Dead at 91". Rolling Stone. Retrieved March 9, 2021.
  15. ^ "The 38th Academy Awards – 1966". Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences. Retrieved March 9, 2021.
  16. ^ The Phantom Tollbooth Nov 16th – Dec 16th, 2007, Kennedy Center. (Retrieved November 28, 2007)
  17. ^ "Robert Xavier Rodríguez". University of Texas at Dallas. Retrieved March 9, 2021.

External links[edit]