Readerz.Net / Norton Juster
Norton Juster (born June 2, 1929) is an American academic, architect, and popular writer. He is best known as an author of children's books, notably for The Phantom Tollbooth and The Dot and the Line.
Juster was born in Brooklyn, New York City. His father, Samuel Juster, was Jewish and born in Romania, and became an architect through a correspondence course. His mother, Minnie Silberman, came from a Polish Jewish background. His brother, Howard, became an architect as well. He studied architecture at the University of Pennsylvania.
In 1954, Juster enlisted in the Civil Engineer Corps of the United States Navy, 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. Still, Juster also finished an unpublished satirical fairy tale called "The Passing of Irving".
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. 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.
About 6 months after meeting Feiffer, Juster received his discharge from the Navy, and worked for a Manhattan architectural firm, with some part-time teaching, and other jobs. Juster, Feiffer, and another friend rented an apartment on State Street. Juster also resorted to pulling pranks occasionally on Feiffer.
Juster's celebrated children's novel, The Phantom Tollbooth, was published in 1961, with Feiffer doing the drawings. Although he enjoyed writing, his architectural career remained his primary emphasis. He served as a professor of architecture and environmental design at Hampshire College from its first trimester in 1970 until his retirement in 1992.
Juster co-founded a small architectural firm, Juster Pope Associates, in Shelburne Falls, Massachusetts, in 1970. The firm was renamed Juster Pope Frazier after Jack Frazier joined the firm in 1978.
Juster lives in Amherst, Massachusetts, with his wife, Jeanne. Although he has retired from architecture, he still writes. His book The Hello, Goodbye Window, published May 15, 2005, won the Caldecott Medal for Chris Raschka's illustration in 2006. The sequel, Sourpuss and Sweetie Pie, was published in 2008. His most famous publication continues to be The Phantom Tollbooth.
Both The Phantom Tollbooth and The Dot and the Line were adapted into films by animator Chuck Jones. The latter film received the 1965 Academy Award for Best Animated Short Film.
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.
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.
profile at Central Rappahannock Regional Library, Virginia