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The Phantom Tollbooth
by Norton Juster
The Phantom Tollbooth Chapter 4 Summary
Confusion in the Market Place Milo and Tock emerge into the word market, which is in full swing. Vendors are selling words as if they were fruits and vegetables. There are all kinds of different words available, and Milo is totally overwhelmed. At first, he thinks he should buy some words and picks out three really fancy ones. But they're way too expensive, so he puts 'em back. Actually, Milo can't really buy any words, because he doesn't have any cash. He does have a small "coin," but that's for the tollbooth when he goes home. He should probably hang on to that one. Milo and Tock still enjoy browsing, though, and they stop at a stand where you buy individual letters and create your own words. Each letter has its own flavor. A's are really popular, like vanilla, but Z's aren't. (Just like in Scrabble!) Milo would like to make words, but he just doesn't know how to start. Cue the guy who does know how to make word: sure enough, the Spelling Bee shows up. The Spelling Bee is, surprise surprise, an enormous bee that likes to spell. He can't go through a whole sentence without spelling at least one word. Milo's kind of freaked out by him, because he doesn't really like bees, but the Spelling Bee calms him down and tries to demonstrate his knowledge. Milo makes him spell "vegetable," which the Bee does. Nailed it. The Bee has just started to tell his life story when he's interrupted by the Humbug, a giant bug. It's immediately clear that the Bee and the Humbug do NOT get along. The Bee says the Humbug is a big fat liar, and the Humbug strikes back by telling a puffed up story of his own family history. The two yell at each other and then bust out fighting. During the fight, all the word stands get knocked over. Milo falls on the Bee, and Tock gets squished in a big stack of letters. Oh my.
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