Questions from Phans

Q: "I started reading The Phantom Tollbooth today for the first time with a 4th grade student whom I tutor after school. I brought with me a copy published in the early 70's that I found at my parents' house, while the student had a paperback published in 1995 and purchased in the UK. The most immediately noticeable difference is that the artwork is not the same, including the cover. As soon as we began reading we discovered differences in the language as well. Where my copy says "elevator," hers says "lift". Where mine says "highway," hers says "motorway". Obviously our editions were tailored for different markets. Can you explain this?"
Thanks to many UK Phans for commenting on this. It's common practice to alter some children's books into UK or US vernacular. Kids in the US wouldn't know what a "lift" was, so it gets changed, and vice-versa. The Phantom Tollbooth is by an American author and so has been slightly modified in the UK versions. I just read the first Harry Potter book, which in the US is called The Sorcerer's Stone instead of The Philosopher's Stone, and has several other changes inside to US slang (like "crisps" becomes the US "chips").

The cover artwork changes often when a different publisher puts it out. I have several US copies with different covers.

Q: "My assistant and I had a ball deciding why the characters had the names they had; however, we NEVER could figure out Alec Bing! Do you know why he was named that?"

I never could figure that one out either. Any ideas?

This from Jeru B., a 15-year-old Phan in in South Africa: "I do have kind of an idea about what Alec Bings name could mean (well, his first name, at least!) When a person acts really smart, that person is called "A SMART ALEC"... maybe Norton Juster is trying to imply that Alec is very smart? That's just a thought."

Last Modified: January 11, 2002