Book Review: “Ella Minnow Pea” by Mark Dunn

I started and finished this book in a single night. It’s not all that long, but it did leave a lasting impression on me.

As mentioned previously, this book covers the island of Nollop, where the man who invented the phrase “the quick brown fox jumps over the lazy dog” is worshipped almost like a god (and, later, the council members declare him to be the only god there is). As the alphabet letters start falling off of his statue, however, the council decides that means Nollop is telling them they may no longer use those letters. This leads to what is at first a hilarious time and then it devolves into something much darker as more and more letters go and people start being banished, never to return.

The only person who can save them is someone who can come up with a similar phrase to Nollop’s: the council agrees to reverse their statutes if the phrase contains all 26 letters, but is only 32 letters in length total, which is fewer letters than Nollop’s verse, claiming that nobody will ever be able to do it because Nollop was leaps and bounds smarter than any other mortal being on the planet.

As letters continue to fall off the sign, the written letters in the book between the characters get more and more stilted, until at last there are so many letters missing that the council agrees people can use similar-sounding letters in writing (but never in speaking!). People stop talking and start writing, words like “phish” instead of “fish” and “woot” instead of “would.” This part of the book made me slow down, and some of the sentences I had to say out loud in order to figure out what they meant.

It all ties up beautifully in the end, and I was surprised reading the last few pages at all the letters that were missing. It was absolutely no small feat to write this book, and I am amazed at how well Dunn did (and how much his editor probably hated him for doing this).

If you haven’t read Ella Minnow Pea, pick up a copy at your local used bookstore. It’s short, and you’ll be supporting a small business. I’m giving this book a 4.5 star rating, because it was one of the better books I’ve read this year (that just goes to show how horrible my reading list has been this year? or how good this book is? you decide!), but it’s not quite perfect. The ending did surprise me, and I’m looking forward to reading what other people have to say about this book.

Have you read it? Let me know in the comments!

And as always, keep reading.

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