By Norton Juster
Yearling, $5.99, 88 pages
Former architect Norman Juster is best-known in writing circles as the author of the strange and wonderful children’s classic The Phantom Tollbooth. Some forty years ago, he came out with a slim short story collection called Alberic the Wise and Other Journeys now re-released. In the title story, Alberic is a young man who knows quite a bit about farming, but little of anything else. After meeting a wise but tattered man along the road, he sets out to find out what the world has to teach him. Juster’s tales play with classic fairy tale themes, but they often end with an unexpected moral.
Comparing The Phantom Tollbooth to Alberic isn’t quite fair. While Tollbooth is a rich and wildly inventive main course, Alberic is more like a bit of sweet chocolate after the meal. Domenico Gnoli’s original black-and-white drawings are especially fine.
Reviewed by Katie Schneider