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Book Review

Publisher's Note:

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. *pangram: a sentence or phrase that includes all the letters of the alphabet…

Ella Minnow Pea

by Mark Dunn

Overall Book Review:

This novel is absolute genius.  There is no other way to phrase it.  On the small island of Nollop, the people are extremely intelligent but technologically backward.  They aren’t allowed to have computers or phones or internet.  They still write letters and visit each other on the front porches of their homes.  Then one day, the shrine dedicated to Mr. Nollop and his pangram begins to crumble.  A tile falls (the letter z is first), and the high council decides it is a message from the ‘all powerful’ Nollop that that letter is no longer useful.  It is banned and anyone who uses it will suffer severe punishment.  Another letter falls, and the same law and punishment is meted.  As all silly laws go, it begins to spiral out of control.  At first it is terrible and the consequences dire.  As time goes on, the terribleness remains, but then a sense of the ridiculous enters.  After the silliness wears off, there is a time of desperation where no one wants to give in but something must be done before all is lost.  The word usage in this book is masterful.    How Mr. Dunn is able to write a coherent story while periodically losing letters of the alphabet is a mystery to me!  But he does so, and with style!  When the loss of the letter ‘d’ occurs, all the days of the week are renamed (try ‘Fribs’ or ‘Satto-gatto’ on for size)!  Once the letter ‘b’ is gone, the months go crazy (‘Riggy-Roo, Octopus 20’ for ‘Friday, October 20’ was one of my favorites).  The characters are real and suffer with the loss of each letter and the restriction of their freedom of speech.  The people are whipped, banished and humiliated.  This brings on underground meetings and rebellions, nightmares, fanatics (to both sides), and even lunacy!  We feel the frustration, the fear, and the impotent rage as we watch the islanders fight for their rights and their lives…and their letters!  Ella Minnow Pea is a moving satire that could easily be called a contemporary classic as well as a fable for our time!

Content Analysis:

A very clever story that is clean to boot!  There are a few mild exclamations (of the religious kind, mostly). 

As far as violence, many people are put in the stocks, many are whipped.  A character is shot in the head and dies.  Another character dies due to other circumstances. 

The themes are mostly about facing hardships and how we deal with them.  The laws and consequences are harsh.  While a very young audience may not appreciate the vocabulary used in this book (lots of ‘big words’!), it is a perfectly fantastic and fun read for teens and adults alike!

Mature Subject Matter:


Alcohol / Drug Use:


Overall Book Rating

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About the Reviewer

I read anything and everything. I love the smell of books. My kids giggle at me when I open a new box of books from Amazon and I inhale the new pages and rub the shiny new spine against my face! 🙂 My husband just rolls his eyes at me and is grateful he has me on a budget! 🙂