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Ella Minnow Pea: A Novel in Letters Paperback

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 208 pages
  • Publisher: Anchor; Reprint edition (September 17, 2002)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0385722435
  • ISBN-13: 978-0385722438
  • Product Dimensions: 8 x 5.1 x 0.6 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 5 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (189 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #14,513 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews


“There’s the whiff of a classic about Ella Minnow Pea.” —The Christian Science Monitor

“A love letter to alphabetarians and logomaniacs everywhere.” --Myla Goldberg

“A curiously compelling . . . satire of human foibles, and a light-stepping commentary on censorship and totalitarianism.” --The Philadelphia Inquirer

“This exceptional, zany book will quickly make you laugh.” --Dallas Morning Herald

From the Inside Flap

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

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Customer Reviews

It was a fun read and keeps you thinking after the book has finished.
Kathy (Bookworm Nation)
For people who love the English language and words, this is a fun book to read.
Kindle Customer
The story is told through a series of letters from various characters.
ghost of a red rose

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

53 of 57 people found the following review helpful By Gregory Baird VINE VOICE on November 3, 2002
Format: Paperback
'Ella Minnow Pea' is a delightfully diverting novel filled with wit and imagination. Its lovingly crafted structure is a real breath of fresh air -- one would be hard pressed to find another book like it out there. One must admire Mark Dunn not only for his lively imagination but for his awe-inspiring power over words. It is fun to see how he manages to continue telling his story while avoiding use of a growing number of letters in the alphabet. Never once does his prose sound forced or simple, even after he must resort to using his remaining letters to phonetically sound out his words. The plot (citizens on an island off the coast of the US rebel after their government begins restricting their use of the alphabet) could have easily been silly, cliched and like a poor man's 'Animal Farm' but instead forges out its own solid identity and endears itself to the reader through its inventiveness and wit. One can't help but enjoy 'Ella Minnow Pea'. I read it in one afternoon and my only complaint is that it had to end.
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16 of 16 people found the following review helpful By MLPlayfair on December 16, 2002
Format: Paperback
This is a challenging experiment in word play written entirely in letter (epistle) format. Plot-wise, as the letters of the alphabet disappear from the monument, the citizens are ordered to stop using them -- in writing OR in speech. (The speech part fails me -- you don't use letters in speech unless you spell aloud. But for the sake of the story, it increases the frustrating need to comunicate.) I would compare the plot to that of "The Emperor Has No Clothes" -- that is, what's real and what isn't, and who is willing to stand up and admit it? ELLA MINNOW PEA becomes an interesting look at what a fanatic oligarchy can do to a society if the pople don't fight back.
Because this was sold as a play on words, I thought it was going to be much more fun. But quite frankly it was pretty heavy plodding in the beginning. I do applaud the author for his attempt at word play, but I wish he'd been more consistent. For example, at one point, character Mittie decides she's going to make up for the loss of some letters by overusing the others ("Robbed of two letters, I now chooooose to overuuuuse the twenty-four which remaaaain"), but then she never does again. Had she kept that up, it would have been fun and something to set her apart. There was otherwise nothing distinguishing these "characters."
I initially felt that the writing was terribly awkward -- why does the author make it sound as if the people had swallowed a thesaurus and spewed it forth in their unreal letters to each other? But a couple of days later, as the story was still swimming in my head, I realized, no -- the beginning establishes how much the people cherish the words. They play with them, eat, sleep, and practically bathe in them, making their loss even more painful.
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25 of 28 people found the following review helpful By N. Gargano VINE VOICE on October 14, 2002
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I LOVED this book. I wasn't sure what to expect when I picked it up, and then I just couldn't put it down. I was reading passages to my husband and although he hates it when I do that, I couldn't resist. When I finished it, I went to the Amazon web page and ordered a copy for my son and my sister-in-law. I then put the book on my shelves that I have reserved for the books to read again. As a matter of fact, I have the paperback edition, I think I am going to need the hardback!
This book should be put on reading lists at high schools and colleges, it is that good. The discussions it could start, the ideas and thoughts it could open to so many people...enough, just take my word for it, this is a MUST read book.
By the way, I found that I needed a dictionary for the book and towards the end, I found it was much easier to read the letters out loud (not to my husband, just for me).Reading the letters out loud helped me understand them, so keep that in mind. What a fun, important book!
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10 of 10 people found the following review helpful By Koko the Talking Ape on May 25, 2006
Format: Paperback
The editorial summary doesn't mention the fact that the inhabitants of Nollop cherish the written word. They rejoice in felicitous turns of phrase, the obscure yet precisely appropriate word, the expressive distinctiveness of individual voice. In letters (they eschew the telephone) they tend to sound vaguely Victorian, but they are no linguistic stiffs; they embrace neologisms, word play and above all, wit and vigor in writing.

So it is all the more poignant when Nollop's Council begins to forbid the use of first one, then more letters, in writing or speech, upon pain of banishment. The book is mostly about the inhabitant's reactions to these ever-tightening restrictions. At first they are puzzled, dismissive or resigned. Some even find it humorous. But as the inhabitants begin to be banished from the island, they become more alarmed (though some zealots begin to inform on their neighbors.) One begins to understand just how soul-crushing such restrictions on personal expression can be.

Ella is a particularly intelligent and spirited girl. She ends up being nearly the only inhabitant of the island, other than the Council, now revealed to be a self-serving bunch of autocrats. To watch Ella reduced in her fury and despair to nearly wordless moaning is especially poignant.

The book is certainly funny. I especially enjoyed watching the names of the days and months change, ultimately beyond recognition, to avoid using the forbidden letters.

But though it doesn't belabor the point, the book is ultimately a cautionary about clinging too zealously to the myths and stories of one's past, and how gradually and insidiously any restrictions on personal freedoms can destroy a community.

It is quite short. I read it in an afternoon.
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