I love conundrums, riddles, puzzles of every kind. But they tend to drive me berserk! Forcing me to pull out my curly locks from loss of composure. However, this is where the fun comes from: To see if I will uncover the elusive solution.
Have you ever challenged yourself to write with only 25 letters of the alphabet instead of 26? Harder than it sounds. And, if you didn’t notice, I did just that in my first paragraph. At no point did I use the letter “a.” And let me tell you it wasn’t easy.
When the cenotaph by the legendary Nevin Nollop begins to fall apart one letter at a time the residents of Nollop are forced to remove those same letters from their language. Why? Because the Council believes it to be a message from the dearly departed Nollop calling on citizens of the island to pursue greater intellect. So is created the somewhat ridiculous but fun-filled world in Ella Minnow Pea by Mark Dunn.
What begins as a simple edict starts to affect every aspect of the Nollopians’ lives: How they speak, what they read, how they write, what they think and, even, how they interact.
The Nollopians’ vocabulary isso advanced that I had to turn to my trusty dictionary repeatedly. Here’s where the citizens start off:
Much has happened during your one-month sojourn off-island. Perhaps your Village neighbors have appraised you. Or you may have glanced at one of the editions of The Island Tribune that have, no doubt, accumulated on your doorstep. However, I will make the safest assumption that you have not yet to be offered the full account of certain crucial events of the last few days (tucked away as you and your mother are in your quiet and rustic little corner of our island paradise), and inform you of the most critical facts pertaining to such events. You’ll find it all, if nothing else, quite interesting.
And as the letters fall so does their ability to communicate effectively.
I am writing to people who are still here. Who I still see in the streets, who peep at me—wall-in, porthole, portiere people. Wanting to say something, with anxiety stilling erstwhile galloping yammers. It is important that we say something to one another—any little thing.
Until they are forced to substitute letters in order to create the sounds necessary to make semi-coherent words and sentences.
To answer the interrogatoree, I haph no plans to leaph this isle. Espeshellee sinse I haph goot reason to remain.
Inevitably, they reach a point where there’s nothing left to their words but utter nonsense.
No mo Nollop pomp!
No mo Nollop poo poo!
Ella Minnow Pea is clever, fun, even whimsical and maintains this tone throughout but underpinning it is a commentary on censorship and totalitarianism. This brings about a certain self-reflection for the reader, we all submit to a degree when told what to say or how to act. How much becomes too much? And there are enough examples around the globe of too much control that can turn both ridiculous and inhumane.
If you love Haroun and the Sea of Stories or The Phantom Tollbooth, this book is destined for your bookshelf!
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