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The Very Persistent Gappers of Frip [Hardcover]

George Saunders , Lane Smith
4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (28 customer reviews)

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Book Description

March 29 2006
Three families live in the seaside village of Frip — the Romos, the Ronsens, and a little girl named Capable and her widowed father. The townspeople of Frip make their living raising goats, but they must fight off a daily invasion of gappers, bright orange, many-eyed creatures that cover goats and stop them from giving milk. When the gappers target Capable's goats, the Romos and the Ronsens turn their backs on the gapper-ridden Capable. What will Capable do about her gapper plague? An imaginative tale by acclaimed author George Saunders accented with haunting illustrations by award-winning illustrator Lane Smith, <i>The Very Persistent Gappers of Frip</i> is an adult story for children, a children's story for adults, an oceanside fable for the landlocked, a fish story for loaves, and a fable about the true meaning of community.

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The Very Persistent Gappers of Frip is that rarity, a fable that appeals equally to literate adults and id-crazed kids. Its author, George Saunders, is a Thomas Pynchon-approved, three-time O. Henry Award-winning surrealist writer; its artist, Lane Smith, is the Caldecott-honored illustrator of The Stinky Cheese Man and film designer of James and the Giant Peach. Nothing could evoke Saunders's simple yet extravagant story better than Smith's strange, painterly depictions of the seaside town of Frip, a place of ornery eccentrics and oddball animals. Smith combines some of the virtues of George Grosz, Dr. Seuss, and the Japanese prints called Ukiyo-e ("pictures of the floating world").

Gappers are baseball-sized, burr-shaped orange creatures with a compulsion to creep up out of the sea and fasten themselves to goats, whom they love. "When a gapper gets near a goat it gives off a continual high-pitched happy shriek of pleasure that makes it impossible for the goat to sleep, and the goats get skinny and stop giving milk," writes Saunders. Since Frip survives by selling goat milk, the children must brush gappers off the herd eight times daily and dump them into the ocean. You simply must see Smith's picture of Capable, the book's plucky heroine, emptying her gapper-sack from a precarious cliff picturesquely menaced by subtly colored waves. You'll be torn between lingering over the gorgeous artwork and flipping the page to see how Capable will ever cope with the gapper invasion of Frip, her obdurately past-obsessed widower papa, and her dumb, mean neighbors (two snooty, boy-obsessed girls and a family of singers who are harder on the ears than a keening gapper attached to the goat of its dreams). This is a slim tale, but unquestionably one quite in keeping with Saunders's prizewinning books. The title story of Pastoralia, for instance, is also a fable involving class struggle and people who get snooty about the difficulties of working with goats.

The Very Persistent Gappers of Frip is a grownups' book, a kids' book, an art book, and a cause for countless happy shrieks of pleasure. --Tim Appelo --This text refers to an alternate Hardcover edition.

From Publishers Weekly

Saunders's (Pastoralia) idiosyncratic voice makes an almost perfect accompaniment to children's book illustrator Smith's (The Stinky Cheese Man) heightened characterizations and slightly surreal backdrops in this unconventional fairy tale for grownups. Saunders describes the setting, the town of Frip, as "three leaning shacks by the sea," which Smith represents as oblong two-story towers in brick red, ocean blue and mint green situated on irregular plots of land with sinewy trees against a yellow sky that suggest a Daliesque eerieness. The 1,500 gappers, spiky little creatures with multiple eyes, feed on the goats that graze the shacks' backyards; by habit, they split into three groups to attack all three properties at once. One day, the gappers decide that henceforth they will concentrate all their efforts on the goats at only one house, the one closest to the seaAinhabited by a girl, Capable, and her grieving, widowed father. Soon, the two unafflicted families begin to tell themselves that they are superior to Capable and her father ("Not that we're saying we're better than you, necessarily, it's just that, since gappers are bad, and since you and you alone now have them, it only stands to reason that you are not, perhaps, quite as good as us"). Of course it's only a matter of time until everybody's luck changes. The Saunders-Smith collaboration is inspired. Smith adds witty touches throughout, and Saunders's dialogue features uncannily amusing deadpan repetitions and platitudinous self-exculpations. Saunders is much too hip to bring this fable to an edifying ending, but things do conclude as happily as is possible in the morally challenged, circumscribed world of Frip. --This text refers to an alternate Hardcover edition.

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Customer Reviews

Most helpful customer reviews
4.0 out of 5 stars Very Silly, Fun and it includes a good lesson! Feb. 18 2005
"The Very Persistent Gappers of Frip" is truly delightful and funny and for readers of all ages. George Saunders creates a tale about a small village (of all of three houses) that live by a sea where the 5 little children go out three times a day to brush gappers off their goats, which supply the milk and literately the income of the village.
The characters of this story are truly amazing and so silly that it makes for an entertaining read. There is the main character Capable (who is indeed very capable) who lives with her widowed father who believes that everything should stay the same. The other two that families living in Frip, Mrs. Bea Romo (who also seems to be a widow although it isn't really mentioned in the story) who lives with her two sons Gilbert and Robert (who have an IQ of around 3.7) and Sid and Carol Ronsen and their two daughters (that believe that when they stand still they are very pretty) are truly weird and wacky and very silly. The gappers themselves are truly imaginative. They are little orange creatures that have multiple eyes and the IQ or 3.7 (the same as the two Romo boys). Their actions of jumping onto the goats and shrieking at high pitches are done with a reason that explains their character a little better. The characters help create develop the story into something truly remarkable with they attributes.
This story also has a lesson woven into its plot. Help others (and don't call people a snoot). That is what is needed to overcome the gapper problem of Frip; the families must overcome their own selfishness. This story is truly remarkable and is for all ages. It makes you laugh uncountable times (something that not every book can do), I would recommend it to anyone who enjoys a good laugh and great illustrations.
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5.0 out of 5 stars The Very Persistent Excellent Read March 10 2004
My sister gave me this book recently as a birthday present. Immediately I was struck by the bold, yet somewhat disturbing illustrations (the voodoo doll) that accompanied Saunders slight moral tale.
"The Very Persistent Gapper of Frip" tells the tale of the extremely small town of Frip, three families to be exact, who make their living raising goats and protecting their beloved economy from the gappers - bright orange shrieking creatures who love goats. If left to their own devices, the gappers will completely cover a goat and soon he will stop giving milk, therefore putting a halt to any sort of income for the three families. The children of the three families are responsible for brushing the numerous gappers from their goats at any given time of the day. The less-than-bright gappers settle their sights on the main character, Capable's goats. She has lost her mother and her father refuses to change (or to eat anything that isn't white) and so she is left alone to handle all the gappers of Frip since her neighbors believe her to be cursed. Seemingly alone, Capable must teach herself, her father, and her neighbors the true meaning of community (as well as how to overcome the persistent gappers).
"The Very Persistent Gappers of Frip," is a delightful and quick read even if it has a somewhat apparent purpose and moral. The illustrations by Lane Smith truly elevate this slight tale to an instant classic.
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3.0 out of 5 stars Silly, fun, wonderfully illustrated. Feb. 17 2004
George Saunders, The Very Persistent Gappers of Frip (Villard, 2000)
Saunders (Pastoralia) and illustrator Lane Smith (The Stinky Cheese Man, James and the Giant Peach) team up to deliver this cautionary tale about helping your neighbors out of a jam. And while the story wears its moral far too plain on its face, the story itself, and the wonderfully twisted illustrations that accompany it, make it worth a read.
Capable and her father live in the very small town of Frip. It's so small, in fact, it only has three houses. Frip's whole economy is based on goat's milk. Which is all well and good, except for these odd little amphibians called gappers, who love goats, and shriek with joy when they see a goat. The shrieking makes the goats nervous, and causes them to stop giving milk. So life in Frip is a constant battle of keeping the gappers away from the goats.
Things get nasty when the gappers realize that Capable's house is the closest to the sea, and so they should all lavish their affections on Capable's herd. Which makes her neighbors very happy, since their goats are no longer plagued. They refuse to help her with her gappers, and thus the conflict at the center of the book is born.
This is exceptionally fun stuff. Perhaps having the Lane Smith illustrations put me more in mind of the late Roald Dahl than I otherwise would have been, but there is certainly a Dahl-esque feeling to Saunders' writing. Dahl was usually better at concealing his morals within the context of his stories (overly-moralizing oompah-loompahs excepted, of course), and so I have a hard time ranking Saunders with the best of Dahl's work. But it is a fine thing, and quite worth your time. ***
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5.0 out of 5 stars Versatility of Saunders Jan. 31 2002
George Saunders, the master of quick-witted stories about a dystopic near-future that are despairing and hopeful at once, tries his hand at a children's book. He has not only succeeded, but has written one of the modern classics in children's literature.
The story of Capable and her father is movingly told, without sentimentality. Typically swift and effective characterization you find in Saunders' adult fiction can be found here, i.e. the father who barks at the sun to stay up, eats all his food after it's been dyed white because white rice is the last thing his wife ate before she died.
The main story of Capable having to fend off the gappers who threaten the entire stock of goats in her house and persevere the situation is told with incredible agility. The villains, the hilariously self-righteous Christian neighbors who refuse to help, are drawn with such surreal, but vivid force, that one cannot help but feel polarized at such disparity in grace given and not given to people, the apparent unfairness in the world. It makes you feel like a kid, once again, so unabashedly rooting for Capable and the good to overcome the hypocritical world.
Saunders opts for a gentle ending where everyone, including the neighbors, finds a harmonious way to live. The underlying hope and faith that present itself so ambiguously in Saunders' fiction are more openly expressed here.
All in all, a tremendously satisfying reading. If you are a fan of Saunders, or a well-told tale, you can't miss with this one. It is savagely funny as well as gently moving. Lane Smith's illustrations are uniformly gorgeous.
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Most recent customer reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars Why the Very Persistent Gappers Of Frip is such a great book
My very favorite children's book in the world is The Very Persistent Gappers Of Frip! I love it so much because of all of the humor and the hysterical plot. Read more
Published on Dec 6 2001 by Lizard Man
4.0 out of 5 stars Great fun and truly wonderful design by Smith
As a fan of both Saunders and Smith, I felt compelled to pick this one up. The book itself is well-made -- beautifully bound with heavy, tactile paper. Read more
Published on Nov. 10 2001 by "turboghandi"
3.0 out of 5 stars Read the review
A modern-day fable of sorts, whose message is
false and misleading, and definitely not suitable for kids. Read more
Published on Nov. 4 2001 by Michael Ezzo
5.0 out of 5 stars Odd little book...
I bought this book for the title...how could I resist it...and I have a good friend that truly loves goats. This book is 'very' easily read in one sitting... Read more
Published on May 24 2001 by A. G. Totcky
5.0 out of 5 stars I loved this book
I bought this book before reading any reviews, because I found it as a book club selection and loved other volumes illustrated by Lane Smith (e.g. Read more
Published on April 13 2001
5.0 out of 5 stars well-crafted potty humor
Loved it, a perfect bathroom read. I do think Mintonmedia's review is, perhaps, yes, a little too oversensitive. Read more
Published on April 12 2001 by Darwin8u
3.0 out of 5 stars Enjoyed it...
Cute, and good after-work read. But the reviewer mintonmedia does bring up a point. While I won't be giving this book to my niece and nephews, I'll be keeping it on the shelf for... Read more
Published on March 26 2001
3.0 out of 5 stars Clever, great to look at, but leaves a sour taste
Not usually one to quibble with a well-crafted work of art, I nonetheless came away from this otherwise enjoyable read with a noisy little gapper clinging to my own goatskin. Read more
Published on March 17 2001 by mintonmedia
4.0 out of 5 stars Excellent Fun
George Saunders, master of the short story, turns out another brilliant one. The accompanying illustrations by Lane Smith aren't to my taste. Read more
Published on Feb. 28 2001 by Michael Scott
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