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.
I heard about this book online and was immediately intrigued when I heard about it because it sounded fascinating and very fun.
The basic premise of the book is that the island has a statue reading “The quick brown fox jumps over the lazy dog” however it’s very old and so letters begin to fall off. The council declares that this means that it is the will of Nollop that they no longer use those letters anymore and issue bans regarding them. The book is told through letters written by the characters themselves which means that they have to follow the restrictions used so as the characters are slowly banned, you can see the changes in the novel itself. It soon reaches a point where they are having to substitute other letters in writing such as “ph” to represent “f”. People are slowly leaving the island due to a three-strike system but if they can come up with a shorter pangram then they can prove that it’s not the will of Nollop and all letters will be allowed again.
The story follows Ella and other inhabitants of the island as they cope with the changes and the hunt for a shorter pangram. The main thing I enjoyed about this book was viewing the evolution of language used as the island grew ever more restrictive. Although I liked the characters, I felt that they weren’t particularly developed very much beyond the purposes needed to convey the story and as it was told via letters it meant we also didn’t get to see much of the island of Nollop itself.
However, I still really enjoyed this novel and would definitely recommend it to people looking for something a bit different and to see what can be achieved through a limited use of language.