(1929- ) US writer and architect whose reputation rests on his first book, The Phantom Tollbooth (1962), a fine Children's Fantasy. It describes the adventures of Milo, a depressed young boy who comes home to find a cardboard tollbooth which is a Portal to a Wonderland. He visits the warring cities of Dictionopolis (ruled by Azaz the Unabridged) and Digitopolis (ruled by Azaz's brother the Mathemagician), and sets forth on a Quest to bring home the royal princesses Sweet Rhyme and Pure Reason, so that the country of Wisdom will be at peace. The wonderland venue, the unflagging verbal invention and the ongoing play with mathematics all recall Lewis Carroll. The movie version, The Phantom Tollbooth (1969 US), containing live action and – mostly – animation, is disappointing; although it has some superb moments, too often it seems like an extended educational section from Sesame Street.
None of NJ's later books have the same stature. The Dot and the Line: A Romance in Lower Mathematics (1963 chap) is a heavily (and cleverly) illustrated picture-book love story; it was made into an animated short. Alberic the Wise and Other Journeys (coll 1965 chap) comprises three slight but charming didactic fables. AS: A Surfeit of Similes (1989) is a Dr Seuss-like exploration of the figure of speech of the title. [DK]