For the past four years, Juster has opened his home to the school’s sixth grade class. After reading Juster’s The Phantom Tollbooth, the students have traveled to Amherst, MA, where Juster discusses the book with them, answers their many questions, and entertains them with personal stories of his past. At the end of each visit, Juster autographs each student’s copy of his book.
Through their discussions over the years, students have learned that Juster’s professional training as an architect inspired him to write The Phantom Tollbooth, which has been published in 22 languages over the past 50 years. Thinking back to the impetus for the book, Juster said he thought about how great it would be if there was information out there for kids to help them understand cities and city planning. He started writing, and his idea evolved into The Phantom Tollbooth.
When asked where he got the ideas for the characters, or if any of the characters were based on himself, Juster responded that there was a piece of him in everything within the book. He said that, in many ways, he's like Milo, the main character. Like Milo, he is a constant daydreamer. Juster also mentioned that, as a boy, he lived in the shadow of his older brother, who was very accomplished and successful at everything. The Milo character shows that people who think that they, and their lives, are ordinary may not be so ordinary after all, and they can really do extraordinary things.
“Striar Hebrew Academy is proud to recognize Norton Juster for the personable, face-to-face learning he has offered our students,” says Rabbi Yehudah Potok, Head of School at Striar Hebrew Academy. “We are excited to welcome him to our community this Sunday, as we pay tribute to the outstanding contributions our honorees have made to Striar Hebrew Academy.”
Also being honored are Pam Dressler and Leisa Glass, teachers of the Toddler class. For more than 10 years, Pam and Leisa have worked together in nurturing and educating the school’s youngest students. Their blend of enthusiasm, creativity and love for early learning has been at the heart of the Toddler program, which is expanding in the fall to include toddlers from 15- to 23 months old.
Striar Hebrew Academy is a coeducational, Modern Orthodox day school in Sharon, MA, serving students toddler-age through Grade 6. For more information, see www.striarhebrew.org.