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Ella Minnow Pea: A Novel in Letters (2001)

by Mark Dunn

Other authors: See the other authors section.

MembersReviewsPopularityAverage ratingMentions
3,5422443,083 (3.88)431
Ella Minnow Pea is a girl living happily on the fictional island of Nollop off the coast of South Carolina. Nollop was named after Nevin Nollop, author of the immortal pangram, "The quick brown fox jumps over the lazy dog." Now Ella finds herself acting to save her friends, family, and fellow citizens from the encroaching totalitarianism of the island?s Council, which has banned the use of certain letters of the alphabet as they fall from a memorial statue of Nevin Nollop. As the letters progressively drop from the statue they also disappear from the novel. The result is both a hilarious and moving story of one girl?s fight for freedom of expression, as well as a linguistic tour de force sure to delight word lovers everywhere.… (more)
  1. 20
    The Wonderful O by James Thurber (SylviaC)
    SylviaC: Both stories use a light touch to look at language and censorship.
  2. 21
    Tepper Isn't Going Out: A Novel by Calvin Trillin (amysisson)
    amysisson: Both are deceptively simple stories that highlight absurdity in human behavior.
  3. 21
    Haroun and the Sea of Stories by Salman Rushdie (bookwoman247)
    bookwoman247: Word play and language are an intregal part of both books. Ella Minnow Pea is a bit more sophisticated, but for adults or teens who enjoyed Haroun and the Sea of Stories, I think they will also find Ella Minnow Pea very enjoyable.
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    Just a Couple of Days by Tony Vigorito (sturlington)
    sturlington: Breakdown of language
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    The ACB with Honora Lee by Kate De Goldi (GirlMisanthrope)
    GirlMisanthrope: Short sweet charming book , featuring the alphabet
  6. 00
    The Beautiful Bureaucrat by Helen Phillips (4leschats)
    4leschats: Similar aspects of word play demonstrate how the abstract nature of language creates, alters, and describes our concrete experiences.
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    Mr Penumbra's 24-hour Bookstore by Robin Sloan (Runa)
  8. 01
    The Eyre Affair by Jasper Fforde (Yells)
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» See also 431 mentions

English (243)  Dutch (1)  All languages (244)
Showing 1-5 of 243 (next | show all)

This was a book that started strongly, continued to have fun with the idea, but then as it moved on, I just wanted it to end and then it did!

The story of Ella Minnow Pea takes place on an island where the famous phrase "The Quick Brown Fox Jumps Over The Lazy Dog" was created. The creator of the phrase Nevin Nollop is so highly regarded that he is treated almost as a godlike character. The comes into play when letters begin falling off the memorial to him. The island council decides this is fate and begin deeming the letter that has fallen can no longer be used.

The whole story is an epistolary story between Ella and her family and friends. As the first letter is banned, use of it will lead to several punishments including banishment.

As one can guess, letters begin falling off of the sign and each time, the council decides to ban the use of that letter. The letters sent also begin transforming as certain letters are now banned.

This book took a lot of skill to write. It had to be a difficult challenge to continue writing while not using certain letters as the book continued. It was fun reading it in that sense as the author goes with some deep cuts for words to continue telling the story.

The problem is, once the pattern emerges and the story continues, it begins to get a little tedious. The skill is acknowledged to write, but story wise it started to become- let's get this over with already and tie it up.

The other difficulty was trying to distinguish the different character voices in the book. Nothing in the letters being sent lead the reader to a certain character, except for a few kitchen table letters. I had to keep reading the letter's signee to figure out who was speaking.

Overall, it is still a fun and quick book. At just 200 pages, it took an afternoon to read and it was a bit of fun. I gave this one 3.5 stars. ( )
  Nerdyrev1 | Nov 23, 2022 |
bookclub book by Anna 2009 kind of boring but cute ( )
  PatLibrary123 | Aug 9, 2022 |
Read in one sitting (actually one "lying down"). Funny "novel in letters" about a community progressively losing access to its letters. Reads like a practice run for Dunn's later, more expansive and better but in some ways similar (cut-off communities, manufactured realities) Under the Harrow. ( )
  yarb | Jul 20, 2022 |
I have wanted to read this book for a long time, solely based on its title. It is an epistolary novel set on a fictional island called Nollop, after the man who created the phrase "The quick brown fox jumps over the lazy dog." When the tiles of the letters of this phrase begin falling off the statue of Nollop, the town council takes it as a sign that Nollop wants the letter banished from the alphabet. First comes Z, then Q, and so on.
While the book is highly entertaining as the townspeople must find new words to use to avoid penalties and banishment, it is really a look at how totalitarianism is a problem in society, and the overreach of zealots who misinterpret or cast their beliefs on others, and how we must fight back against this, else society as we know it will cease to exist.
I loved it, especially in light of the extremes presented in society today. ( )
  rmarcin | Jun 30, 2022 |
Ella Minnow Pea by Mark Dunn REVIEW
Twenty years ago this book was published, but it seems like it could take place at any time. This book’s use of language is the most amusing the alphabet has been in a very long time, if not ever. It may not be the most insightful or groundbreaking book I’ve ever read, but it does what it sets out to do. Ella Minnow Pea makes you look at not only how important each letter of the alphabet is, but also when the leaders can have good intentions but not necessarily doing what is best.
Ella is a young adult living on a small made up island off the coast of North Carolina. The island is named Nollop, because a resident named Nollop came up with a sentence that uses every letter in the alphabet at least once. He encouraged a culture on the island that was centered on the use of language. Everyone on the island has a diverse vocabulary and is very educated. There is a Nollop monument in the town center with the sentence put on it in tiles. But when the letter ‘z’ comes unglued and crashes to the ground, the council sees it as a sign that Nollop wants that letter banned. As each letter comes down, the letters are removed from the island’s lexicon. Libraries are closed, books removed, and the town descends into crisis. Ella takes the challenge to bring the town together to come up with a way to convince the council that they need the letters back.
The book is told exclusively in letters, so the reader watches as the letters are taken one by one from Ella and around her. They change weekday names and people have to choose between changing their name or leaving the only home they have ever known. It is amazing to read pages and realize at the end that certain letters have not appeared at all.
The characters are not very well rounded, but the plot makes up the difference. It is a quick read, I read it in one day. As a word nerd, I got very involved in how Dunn managed to completely drop letters in speech and writing. It is much harder than it looks!
The lesson in censorship is as important today as it was in 2001. Liberty is in the ability to speak however you need to and read whatever you want to. The government stifling speech begins the loss of liberty for all. The superstition element is important too. The tile tumbling is perceived as a message sent by Nollop, but they have no true evidence. That does not stop the council though. They make this superstition law, as they simply all come to the same conclusion, no matter what the town thinks. The reason a law exists is just as important as the law, and why laws in general exist.
This book is not the deepest look at these concepts, but it is a great introduction to these ideas and an awesome conversation starter, especially with younger readers.

PS did you notice I left out the letter ‘f’ in this whole review?

( )
  alex.reads88 | May 1, 2022 |
Showing 1-5 of 243 (next | show all)
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» Add other authors (1 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Mark Dunnprimary authorall editionscalculated
Gall, JohnCover designersecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Risberg, MiaDesignersecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Williams, ClaireCover designersecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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Epigraph
In the beginning was the Word.

- Gospel of John, Chapter 1, Verse 1
The wicked peon quivered,

then gazed balefully at the judges

who examined him.

- Anonymous Typesetter
Dedication
For Mary
First words
Nollopton. Sunday, July 23. Dear Cousin Tassie, Thank you for the lovely postcards.
Quotations
For the present, it is easier for us to turn away. Our repulsion, you see, will not spur us to revolt until this plague moves much closer to home.
Last words
(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
Disambiguation notice
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Wikipedia in English (3)

Ella Minnow Pea is a girl living happily on the fictional island of Nollop off the coast of South Carolina. Nollop was named after Nevin Nollop, author of the immortal pangram, "The quick brown fox jumps over the lazy dog." Now Ella finds herself acting to save her friends, family, and fellow citizens from the encroaching totalitarianism of the island?s Council, which has banned the use of certain letters of the alphabet as they fall from a memorial statue of Nevin Nollop. As the letters progressively drop from the statue they also disappear from the novel. The result is both a hilarious and moving story of one girl?s fight for freedom of expression, as well as a linguistic tour de force sure to delight word lovers everywhere.

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Book description
Haiku summary
Letters about a
Sign with letters that fall off.
Let her freedom ring.
(_debbie_)

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