This book was written in 2001, but oh my how appropriate it is for today. The story is an excellent example of how there is nothing new under the sun. Ella Minnow Pea is a teenage girl living on the imagined island of Nollop. The entire society is centered around Nevin Nollop who was the man that discovered the sentence that contains every letter of the alphabet, “The quick brown fox jumps over the lazy dog.” On the island, there is a memorial dedicated to Nollop. Letters start falling off of it, and as they do so, the island’s council decides to ban the use of the letters. They can only be written or spoken by anyone under the age of 8. As you can imagine, all kinds of problems ensue. The punishments are steep! With brilliant effort, the author restricts himself to using only those letters that are allowed. Anyone who marvels at the written word will find this book a fun excursion into the world of creative language.
Here are some thoughts I had while reading:
- People can be shockingly easily persuaded into believing crazy ideas.
- Leaders have a responsibility to examine and take account for incontrovertible facts.
- Poor leaders cause big problems.
- The book actually uses the word insurrection at one point. I found myself hoping they would overthrow their leaders, much to my dismay. Yet, they were able to avoid using drastic measures. What constitutes an insurrection? Is it ever a good idea? How are people influenced to do something so dangerous? What kind of circumstances lead to it?
- There is value in all 26 letters of the alphabet. Think of names. Think of phrases we use often. What letter would you most miss?
- While there is value in all 26, they play different roles just like people. Some get more attention than others. Vowels are critical to our understanding of the written word. If you’ve ever watched Wheel of Fortune, then you know that “R, S, T, L, N, and E” are quite popular.
- Communication bonds us. If you’ve ever read about Helen Keller, then you know that her behavior was atrocious until she learned how to communicate. I can’t imagine the frustration.
- Words make us less lonely. How beautiful is that?
- Being a tattle-tale might seem like a good idea, but remember that you are held to the same standard. Following the rules looks a little different when the consequences apply to you, too. It’s easy to be quick to judge others for their failures. We all have the potential to make a mistake.
- I was reminded why teaching is so exhausting. One character who was a third grade teacher got a strike against her rather quickly. Many felt that teachers should get some kind of extra grace since they use more words than the average person in a day. I would agree with that!
While not an easy read with all of the sophisticated vocabulary at the beginning and the inventive spellings at the end, I felt it was well worth my time. I’m glad I was able to borrow it from my son who was reading it for English class.