Ella Minnow Pea by Mark Dunn

This is one of the books that is part of RP2005, where i re-read books that I’ve read before. I loved this book the first time I read it and loved it even more the second time. It’s such a fast paced story that you read through it so quickly the first time that you miss some of the subtle humor.

Ella Minnow Pea is the title character who lives on the island of Nollop, which is off the coast of North (or South) Carolina. This is a tiny island nation that eschews modern accoutrements like TV, telephones, and computers. Instead the Nollopians spend a lot of time reading and writing. They are a nation of people who communicate by letter and worship at the feet of the Nevin Nollop. He’s the man who wrote the famous 35-letter panagram (a sentence containing every letter in the alphabet) “the quick brown fox jumps over the lazy dog.”

In the middle of Nollopton (the main city) is a cenotaph of Nollop with his famous sentence affixed to it, each letter on individual tiles. One day one of the tiles falls from the statue. The high council meets to disccuss what this all means and decide that Z, the fallen letter, must be struck from their lives. Nollopians are no long allowed to utter or write words with the letter Z. To do so would be meet with swift and exacting punishment. With the first offense being a written warning, second flogging or headstocks, and the third offense, instant banishment from the island.

The story is told in letters written by Ella and her family. Of course, Z is not the only letter to fall. As each letter falls from the centotaph, the Nollopians mourn its demise.

The book is absolutely hilarious. It’s Mark Dunn’s love letter to the English language. It’s fun to read how the Nollopians try to communicate with their ever-shrinking alphabet. If you like words, even a little, this is a book you should read.

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2 Comments

  1. Robin 31.Jan.05 at 9:13 am

    I’ve been meaning to read this for almost two years. I read “Welcome to Higby” by Mark Dunn when I was pregnant and loved his writing style and storytelling skills. “EMP” sounds much more ambitious. You’ve prompted me to finall put it on my wishlist.

  2. Damon 31.Jan.05 at 9:07 pm

    I totally want to read this book. It sounds hilarious!