Ella Minnow Pea

Monday, July 27, 2009

Ella Minnow Pea by Mark Dunn is an adorable and clever book that explores the combined issues of dystopia and language. The characters in this book live on the fictional island of Nollop. The island is named after Nevin Nollop, the creator of the famous phrase "the quick brown fox jumps over the lazy dog" which contains all 26 letters of the alphabet. The residents of Nollop are lovers of language. They idolize the since deceased Mr. Nollop and have a statue erected in his honor in their town square.

At the beginning of the novel, one of the letter tiles, z, falls off the erected statue. After deliberation, the High Council decides this is a sign from Nollop and that he wants them to terminate the use of the letter in all oral and written conversation and correspondence. Most of the townspeople adapt. But then more letters keep falling and communication starts to become exponentially more difficult. Ella and others then start on a mission to save the island of Nollop from the overzealous High Council before their means of communication is taken away from them completely.

I thought this book was such a cute, humorous, and witty read. I laughed throughout the book at the absurdity of the "High Council" and the subsequent antics of the townspeople. This was an easy read once I got into it. The first 10 or so pages took a minute to adjust to because the characters speak in a more formal manner with unfamiliar-to-me vocabulary words. But then, the entire book is written in letters to and from different characters which sometimes lends itself to more formal speech, so that might account for some of the language. I will admit there were a couple instances where I wondered if it was really necessary to use as many large words so frequently, but for the most part it wasn't an issue. (If you're looking to learn some new words, though, you may be in for a treat!) As the High Council bans more and more letters, the extreme change in words and spellings greatly reflects the way in which the government is getting out of control. This may or may not have been intentional, but it added an interesting dimension to the novel.

Because the book is written in epistolary form, we don't necessarily get to read or see a description of each character -- we get to know them and their thoughts without dealing with the sometimes annoying stream-of-consciousness narration. The plot was interesting and moved along well. The book is short at 208 pages and can easily be read in a couple quick sittings. I definitely recommend this book! Lovers of language will also really love this book.

Just a little side note.... it was a long time before I realized Ella Minnow Pea = LMNOP, lol! I borrowed this book from my sister, but I was there when she bought it. She apparently got it right away but it took me a while. =)


okbolover said...

LOL that's cute! I wouldn't have catched it either so quickly. Sounds like an interesting novel thanks for the info and review!

christa @ mental foodie said...

This book surprised me and I found it delightful! I was too dumb to figure out the title though :)

Here's my review:

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