The Phantom Tollbooth and Redeeming the Power of Words

My dad calls me Bear. He and my mom came up with the nickname when I was a little girl. I slept hard, they tell me, like a hibernating cub.

I still sleep like it’s wintertime in the forest. Even now, when my parents see me early in the morning during a vacation or visit, they smile in that way only parents can, their faces bearing witness to a decades-long relationship with me.

“Hey, Bear. Want some coffee?”

“That would be great.”

“Here ya go. Your sleepy eyes look just like they did when you were two.”


As the eldest daughter of a word-loving father and homeschooling mother, I grew up surrounded by books. I remember once walking down the staircase with my nose in a book, carelessly risking a misplaced step or stubbed toe. Surely a fall would not be as calamitous as taking my eyes off the page for the 10-second trip to the first floor. The story I refused to set aside was The Phantom Tollbooth by Norton Juster, a children’s fantasy novel featuring a young, bored boy named Milo.

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(Art by Seth T. Hahne)

Author: Abby Perry

Abby has written for The Gospel Coalition, Christ and Pop Culture, Upwrite Magazine, and The Influence Network. She is the communications coordinator for a nonprofit organization and co-facilitates two community efforts—one promoting bridge-building racial reconciliation conversations and one supporting area foster and adoptive families. Abby graduated from Texas A&M University and currently attends Dallas Theological Seminary. She and her family live in College Station, Texas.

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