This is one of the cutest, cleverest books I have ever read. Despite it being liberally seasoned with fifty dollar words (I love learning new words as much as any bibliophile, but this novel was a bit rich), it did fit the culture of the characters. I was skeptical that cleverness would override character development, but quite the contrary: Every character was a delight, though sometimes I would have to look at the next page and see who wrote the letter.
The entire text is written in “epistle” form, which concerned me at first, but it was perfect for this book. I thought the idea of child scribes an interesting one, because, according to the Mormon religion, the age of eight is the age of accountability. The Island of Nollop sounded like such a unique place, I’d love to visit there myself, if it only existed.
Though “Ella Minnow Pea” seems a trifle little delight on the surface, there are deeper issues at play: preserving the right to say what we want while still retaining our right to property, which is sacrosanct, the dangers of idol worship, ignoring scientific proof, the power of communication, the threat of incrementalism, and the atrocities that can happen when a tiny nation is somewhat cut off from the rest of the world, both culturally and technologically. Though the book is set during the time it was published, it is not of this world, but rather an alternate reality—same time, same place, but in some other dimension—a parallel universe, perhaps. I could not put this book down, because the journey to the punchline was so engaging. The ending was brilliantly foreshadowed (though, to be fair, the author did not come up with the emancipating pangram on his own).
Towards the end, the book got a bit harder to read, but that didn’t last overlong. “Ella Minnow Pea” showed that humans are resilient creatures, and that even if government can censor speech, they cannot censor thoughts; that mankind will always find a way to express themselves, even, like the Alison Krauss song goes, when they say nothing at all.