Ella Minnow Pea

Ella Minnow Pea by Mark Dunn

This is a charming little story about an imaginary town called Nollop. Nollop is named after Nevin Nollop the gentleman responsible for the phrase “The quick brown fox jumped over the lazy dog”. In fact, there is an impressive statue of Nevin in the middle of the town square upon which this phrase is immortalized.

One day the letter z falls from the statue of Nevin Nollop and the town’s High Council is thrown into a tizzy. Because the letter z no longer exists on the statue the High Council has banned the use of the letter in all writing and correspondence. Although banishment seems somewhat foolish, communication is not severely impeded because let’s face it,  the letter z is not often used in everyday communication. Unfortunately, the letter z isn’t the only letter that falls. Soon the letter y falls and therefore is banned as well. Next, the letter J. Soon all the letters fall from the statue except l, m, n, o, and p.

The entire story is made of up postal letters between various citizens of Nollop with most of the letters being sent and received by our main character Ella. We also meet Tassie, Father Amos, Gwennette, Nate and an assortment of other characters through letters they write and receive.

As the story progresses these letters become more and more creative (and phonetic) in getting their message across. I mean, how can do you successfully communicate using only 5 letters?

However, there is a way around this catastrophe,  the High Council has proclaimed that if a citizen can create another phrase like “the quick brown fox jumped over the lazy dog” that is a maximum length of 32 letters and using every letter of the alphabet they will reinstate the entire alphabet. 

Can the citizens develop such a phrase? Will they be able to 

What a great idea to use in the classroom! Give them a limited amount of letters and tell them they must somehow communicate a message. Or, have them try to write a sentence using every letter of the alphabet in as few letter combinations as possible. 

This is a charming little story that is a lot of fun to read. It also inspires a number of creative activities you can use in a classroom to inspire students to muck about with words.


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