Today Marshmallow reviews the epistolary novel Ella Minnow Pea: A Novel of Letters by Mark Dunn, a book recommended to her by her school teacher.
Marshmallow’s Quick Take: If you like books about free speech or books about fighting against suppression, or alternatively if you like playing with letters and thinking about language, then this might be the book for you.
Marshmallow’s Summary (with Spoilers): Ella Minnow Pea lives on the fictional island of Nollop, which is home to Nevin Nollop, who is the supposed creator of the famous sentence, “The quick brown fox jumps over the lazy dog”, a sentence that contains all letters of the English alphabet. This sentence is on a memorial statue of Nevin Nollop in the island.
The people of Nollop think very highly of Mr. Nollop, so when the letters of the sentence on the memorial statue start to fall off, the Council says that it is Mr. Nollop who has spoken from beyond the grave. They claim that it is Mr. Nollop’s will that people stop using the letters that have fallen. So you can’t use words, or read books, or write words that have the letters that have fallen. Even if you use them by mistake, you are still punished. For the first offense, you are scolded publicly. For your second offense, you get lashing or stocks, the violator can choose. A third offense is punished by banishment, and if the violator refuses, death. You can see how this would make things difficult! As the story progresses, things get more and more complicated.
Marshmallow’s Review: I think that Ella Minnow Pea is a great book for kids eight and up because it has a well-written plot and developed characters. I say eight and up, because the plot is a bit complicated, so younger bunnies might have a harder time trying to understand what is happening.
This is especially true since Ella Minnow Pea is written in letters, like the book To Night Owl From Dogfish, which I reviewed before for this blog. It is interesting to read a book written in letters, because then you can see multiple people’s views, especially if they write in different styles.
Still if little bunnies want to read Ella Minnow Pea, they can read with their parents. This way if the younger ones don’t understand something, they can ask their parents. This can also help open up some of the important themes of the book.
The main theme in Ella Minnow Pea is freedom of speech because the Council is trying to have everyone stop using the words that fell from the statue. Once they lose the letter “D” they even change the names of the days, with Sunday becoming “Satto-gatto” for example. The book is about the importance of speech and language and how important it is for these to be free. In the end it is language (and people’s determination of course!) that saves the world.
Marshmallow’s Rating: 100%.
3 thoughts on “Marshmallow reviews Ella Minnow Pea by Mark Dunn”
What an interesting and difficult concept Freedom of Speech is. Although the book uses “forbidden letters” as a mechanism to bridge the subject, are there limits to freedom of speech? Where does it end? Can I lie repeatedly because of my right to fee speech? Can I say whatever I want and not be responsible for the consequences?
I must confess that I never really thought much about it before but the current poolitical situation has brought freedom of speech to center stage. I think it is very timely for Marshmallow to tackle this topic.
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When the letter “D” falls off, how does the government explain what “Satto-gatto” stands for without using the words “day”, “Sunday”, etc.? Looks like a difficult thing to do.
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Great question! Marshmallow says that they give people a few days’ notice before the new constraints go into effect.
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