Dunn, Mark. Ella Minnow Pea, A Progressively Lipogrammatic
Epistolary Fable. MacAdam/Cage Publishing, 2001.
Ella Minnow Pea, A Progressively Lipogrammatic Epistolary Fable
Written by: Mark Dunn
Reviewed by: Michael Feliciani
Recommended Audience: High School
Nollop is a small autonomous island off the coast of South Carolina known for its devotion to education and language as well as its rejection of modern technology. It is named after Nevin Nollop, the creator of the well-known pangram “The quick brown fox jumps over the lazy dog.” In honor of Nollop and his pangram, an enormous statue was created, in his likeness, on the island with the phrase written across. Years later, the tiles begin to fall from the statue’s inscription. As each letter falls, the town council members interpret this as a message from Nollop that the letter is no longer needed in the vocabulary. The council members ban the use of the letter and enforce a three strike system to regulate its use. The first strike is a public denouncement, a choice of a lashing or stockades the second, and the third offense is banishment from the island.
As the novel progresses, more tiles begin to fall and the town’s people must deal with this new way of life. Censorship in the destruction of books, newspapers, and radio programs become rampant on the island. People begin to report on one another and soon, whether by choice or by banishment, large portions of the islands citizens leave in exodus. The remaining citizens must find a way to revert this change in the island’s laws before there is nothing left to save.
Ella Minnow Pea provides an almost comical depiction of misinterpretation, devotion to ideals, and governmental control. The novel is written as letters between the citizens of Nollop, as modern technology is mostly rejected by the island people. As the story progresses, letters in their alphabet begin to become banned by the community. The reader can watch the devolution of the language in the actual letters between characters. As each letter is banned, the writings between the characters become less complex and the struggle for freedom of expression comes to the forefront of the text. This is a great novel for adolescents as it explores the concepts of individuality and freedom in a fun way.
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