Ella Minnow Pea

April 8, 2009
By Luke Stefanides BRONZE, Canfield, Ohio
Luke Stefanides BRONZE, Canfield, Ohio
2 articles 0 photos 0 comments

Ella Minnow Pea- Review

Ella Minnow Pea can only be described as an alphabet-obsessed novel that quickly gets to be an exiting, zany trip away from reality. Written by Mark Dunn, this book takes place on the quiet island of Nollop, which is named after Nevin Nollop, the esteemed founder of the sentence “The quick brown fox jumps over the lazy dog”. What is so special about this sentence is that is contains all 26 letters of the alphabet, while using only 35 letters total. While may seem an amazing feat, it is even more to the citizens of Nollop. These people believe it to be an unbelievable accomplishment, worthy of worship and praise. This seemingly peaceful Island culture soon bursts into calamity after a letter related incident. This book's exciting plot, intriguing characters, and underlying thoughts on life and government will keep you entertained and thoughtful throughout the story.

As the story begins, the reader learns of island of Nollop. Having developed a culture honoring the English language and what is almost a religion and in Nollop's memory, the people of Nollop believe his will is absolute. Then suddenly, years after his death, the tiles spelling out his famous sentence begin to fall from their places on the city's statue of Nollop. The five members of the exalted island council, who speak the will of Nollop himself, quickly decide that this is a message from their beloved idol, who is contacting them from his grave. Obviously, the only course of action is to outlaw the use of any of these letters and omit them from use in the English language, at least in their island home. As news of these new laws spreads to edge of Nollop, the people are quick to comply with the wishes of their beloved council. After all, what use is one measly letter? Surely life can easily go on without it. However, as more and more letters fall to the ground and become illegal, a new age of fear and panic comes over the island of Nollop. Soon the citizens find themselves breaking these laws, whether through a slip of the tongue or sheer disregard, and end up submitting to the intense punishments issued by the council. With the entire island in chaos, someone has to stand up against the council or they all may find themselves doomed to live in complete silence.

To Ella and her family, whose correspondence in letters make up the entire book, this becomes a severe problem. Ella, the main character and one of the many protagonists of the story, is a well-educated eighteen year old girl living on the island of Nollop who wants only to live a happy life there with her family. However, this goal quickly moves farther and farther away from her reach as the letters crash to the ground. As people begin to slip up and accidentally utter these forbidden letters, problems arise within the family, and Ella is left to deal with it. Throughout the book, the reader reads through the letters that go between Ella and her family. Quickly, they learn of the close ties between these people, their beliefs, their concerns, and all of their various problems. Dunn really creates a believable closely-knit family that struggles together to make it through these hard times in this pre-alphapocalyptic land that they once knew as home. Their emotional and insightful letters really give the reader a unique look into the lives of a storybook character and help to weave the image of believable people.

One element of the book that is not as prominent as many others is the beliefs on life and government expressed throughout the book. The plot and “dialogue” of the book clearly express the follies of totalitarianism. This is shown in how the council, with its undeniable power over all residents of Nollop, tries to control them all through laws limiting their allowed dialogue with promises of severe punishment. With this, the council strips the people of Nollop of there freedom and refuses them the power of fair representation, which finally throws the island into complete lawbreaking disarray. The situation ends up bad for both sides, but the council refuses to give up its power. The book tries to illustrate that threatening a civilization with the power of totalitarianism just doesn't work in the end. Also, through many situations that are possible in real life, the author shows how life can change for people and what that can do to them. In a time of chaos and fear, stress, among other things, can get out of hand. Times like these change people. They can break a person's will or even addle their minds. The author shows you many realistic reactions to times of crisis which don't only balance out the generally upbeat mood of the novel, but develop realistic characters with realistic flaws. While it may take a while for many to reach their breaking point, the effects of stress and fear are evident throughout the entire book.

In conclusion, Ella Minnow Pea is a well-written book that develops a good plot, realistic and interesting characters, and some beliefs on life and government. The author's upbeat attitude in the beginning of the book easily pulls readers in until the final few words in the dramatic conclusion. He masterfully combined many writing elements to create an oddly believable book with powerful beliefs hidden under the surface. Ella Minnow Pea is a good quick read for anyone willing to have some fun reading, but look into some issues that are serious.

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