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.
My take: 5 looks
Loved the very idea of this book before I bought it. Very rarely do I want the physical book enough to seek it out (electronic copies are more my “immediate speed”), but I read this one with highlighter in hand, and will keep it on my shelf for re-reads.
But I get ahead of myself.
Written in epistolary form, for which I am a sucker, the fictional island of Nollop read amazingly like it was set in my own tiny community. The people are wonderfully real, cleverly written, and react in much the same way we all do: immediate compliance to rules, followed by a bit of questioning, followed by a concerted effort to change what we find disagreeable. Because of the story flow, I had to read the last several pages aloud to hear the phonetics of the words and understand the sentences. I loved the interactive nature of the end!
While this book is very witty and introduces words both real (rarely used, which I will have to look up later) and imagined (warning: I may now work some into my own lexicon), the very sly commentary on what we venerate struck a deep chord within me. In an very subtle style, Dunn makes profound observations on the corruption of power, blindly following rules, the view of an outsider looking in, and finally, the dissolution of status quo. And all in such an entertaining and engaging story.
Thanks to my friend Lara for the recommendation, and I am now passing the recommendation on to you!