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Enjoy a Dollop of Nollop!
Ella Minnow Pea - Mark Dunn
Member Name: tange
Ella Minnow Pea - Mark Dunn
Advantages: Funny, witty and clever !
Disadvantages: A little wordy perhaps !
As part of my job I like to keep up to date on the books people are talking about, or are GOING to be talking about. When a colleague told us about Ella Minnow Pea by Mark Dunn at a staff meeting, I was intrigued and had to order it to check it out for myself.
This is the tale of a girl called Ella, who lives on the island of Nollop. The island is named after Nevin Nollop ~ a kind of demi-god to the people. Nevin left the islanders a legacy; a pangram which uses every letter of the alphabet ~ "THE QUICK BROWN FOX JUMPS OVER THE LAZY DOG". These words are immortalized on a stone tablet under a statue of the great Mr Nollop. Ella is happy on her island!
The problems begin when the years cause the statue and pangram to weather and letters start to fall off. The Council on the Island rule that this is some sort of sign from Nollop and that any letters missing from the pangram must not be used again.
To begin with it isn't too much of a hardship ~ How many times do we use the letter Z anyway? It is as the letters diminish that the language gets more complicated and the Island Council start to get more and more strict with the Nollopians ~ punishments are severe and the persistent usage of banned letters will eventually result in death!
~~~WHAT I THOUGHT.
Ella Minnow Pea is very much a novel for people who are interested in words and language. Even Ella's name is a play on the letters that make up our alphabet ~ L, M, N, O and P. It is all based around words and language and the way we use them in our lives. The book itself is made up of letters and notes passing between the villagers and friends. It is also a warning as to what could happen when rules and laws go mad and or carried too far.
Curbing the way the Nollopians speak and write causes conflict and harsh justice ~ perhaps showing us that we shouldn't take censorship and the way we try to influence how people express themselves too far! As more letters are removed from the available vocabulary, silence begins to threaten the Island and Ella must fight for those she cares about. It becomes harder to make sentences, harder to express yourself and harder to think of things to say.
The book is funny in places and quite sad in others. Ella is engaged in a struggle for the right to self expression and also to save her family from the wrath of the Council. She also has a sense of humour and a love for her family and Island that is quite touching.
The language used is witty although sometimes it has the tendency to be a little TOO wordy. Sometimes there are words that I don't event think exist and sentences that can baffle!
"the fall of the tile bearing the letter "Z" constitutes the terrestrial manifestation of an empyrean Nollopian desire, that desire most surely being that the letter "Z" should be utterly excised-fully extirpated-absolutively heave-ho'ed from our communal vocabulary!"
…..See what I mean? Mind you, it isn't surprising because the letters and notes have to cope with more and more restrictions. Dunn gets more creative as he has to drop letters from use ~ he cleverly manages to express things without using the letters that have fallen from Nollop's statue.
Despite the wordiness I rather liked Ella, which helped me identify with her struggle. She is bright, chatty and able to express herself well. I think if I hadn't taken to her I maybe wouldn't have enjoyed the book so much.
I also found that reading Ella Minnow Pea made me think of the way I speak and write. How would I manage if I suddenly was banned from using the letters T or E? Could I communicate with others if I wasn't allowed to use the letter A? A couple of months ago we had a dogdy keyboard on our PC and had to manage for a few days without the letter N - that was annoying!
Words are as important to me as they are to Ella ~ but, like her, I didn't realise quite HOW important until the freedom to use these letters was taken away.
Books are burned and newspapers can no longer be produced because the letters contained in them are illegal. Islanders are flogged, put in stocks and punished for just using the wrong letters in public. The whole world of Nollop has gone mad and Ella and the rest of her people must fight back in order to preserve their society.
Even the Nollopians way of fighting back is with the use of words ~ aided by Nate Warren (a researcher from South Carolina) they decide to create a new shorter and snappier pangram to replace Nollop's original. It is hoped that they can do this before society breaks down all together and will restore their world. You'll have to read it to find out how they get on because I'm not going to tell you!!
I recommend Ella Minnow Pea to anyone who likes a creative and challenging read. I advise you to give it a try and then think how you would cope if you had to write and speak with the restrictions placed on you by the banning of letters. Don't be put off by the long words and language ~ instead concentrate on the humour and the sentiment behind the story and you will "get it"!
It is clever, funny and a little bit different! It is also one of my favourite books of the year so far!
• Paperback 224 pages (July 3, 2003)
• Publisher: Methuen Publishing Ltd
• ISBN: 0413772950
I borrowed my copy from the library but it can currently be purchased on Amazon for £5.59 ~ a saving of £1.40 on the cover price of £6.99.
Summary: A funny and cleverly written book for anyone who likes words!