Ella Minnow Pea by Mark Dunn
*pangram: a sentence or phrase that includes all the letters of the alphabet
Nollop is a happy happy place where folks go along their merry way, minding their own business and helping a neighbor as needed. Nollop, named for the very famous (and very fictional!) Nevin Nollop, the creator of the pangram sentence, “The quick brown fox jumps over the lazy dog.” On fact the town loves Nevin so much, they have the alphabet hanging in large tiles with the alphabet on them that hangs form a memorial statue of the famed man and have hung their for hundreds (maybe more!) years.
When one day, the “Z” drops from the statue the Island’s council calls an emergency meeting. Surely this a sign from Nevin from beyond the grave! A message quickly goes out across the land that the use of the letter “Z” is now forbidden as of midnight. No longer may people discuss the buzzing of bees, the fixing of a zipper, or visiting a zoo. To speak words containing this now letter that shall not be named, or writing it down will result in a series of punishments including up to public flogging and even jail time.
And so, Nollop moves on, after all it is only a “Z”, and it is possible to have a pretty (almost!) normal life without that letter.
But then… soon after…. the “Q drops. And again the council meets, and again a letter goes out now removing this letter as well, after all, it must be what Nevin wants…. and so to the wayside goes the ability to say or write things like quick or quiver or make the noise of “Quack!”.
And so it goes… letters continue to fall and the world spreads tot he public that the use of these letters are now forbidden… as the books continues, written in letters, the letters become harder and harder to read…. when the letter “D” drops – you can no longer say you knocked on a door , but instead on a portal… and so on and so on…
What will become of the town as people slip up when greeting others or write a now forbidden letter into a sentence?
What will become of Ella, who lives on Nollop and wants nothing more than to see the written word and language returned so once again we can freely express ourselves?
I adored this brilliant book.
I heard about Ella Minnow Pea a couple of years ago while in New York for the Book Expo. I thought it sounded brilliant. While Ella Minnow Pea is not a banned book, it talks about the banning of books. As letters continue to be eliminated, the Library in Nollop is closed…. too many words and you know every one of those books has to be a violation.
Letters sent to one another are read by a selected person to check for the offending letters – but no wait, this is not an invasion of privacy as the person hired to do this does not speak any English, therefore has no idea as to what he is reading.
Ella Minnow Pea is a wonderful reflection of what happens when we enforce censorship. We take away people’s rights to use the tools we have been given to communicate, to choose what we say or write and when we say it. As the books goes on and the letters continue to be eliminated it becomes harder and harder to understand and that… is exactly the point.
Check out Ella Minnow Pea. It’s smart, it’s fun… and it really makes you think about how one small right taken away (like the use of “Z”) seems like no big deal…. and then… one day…. it is another small no big deal (“Q”) and then another… and another…
I chose to review Ella Minnow Pea for Banned Book Week because it fits right in with what happens when we ban or challenge books to be removed from shelves due to our personal preference for what we consider to be proper. Imagine… if everyone had their way on banning and challenging books… think of the great reads we would have NEVER been allowed to read….. The Bible, Hunger Games, Fahrenheit 451, Little House On The Prairie, Narnia, Lord Of The Rings, Harry Potter, To Kill A Mockingbird, Tom Sawyer, Huck Finn, SPEAK, Charlotte’s Web, Alice In Wonderland, The Giver, Wuthering Heights, Kite Runner, Perks Of Being a Wallflower, The Chocolate War, Beloved, Their Eyes Were Watching God, The Color Purple, The Bridge To Terabithia, Of Mice and Men, In True Blood, Song Of Solomon, Are You There God Its Me Margaret, Blubber, A Prayer For Owen Meany…