Move over, Bill Bennettthe inimitable short story master George Saunders (Pastoralia) and acclaimed illustrator Lane Smith (The Stinky Cheese Man and Other Fairly Stupid Tales) have created an astonishing new book of virtues for the child in all of us. Alternately haunting and hilarious, The Very Persistent Gappers of Frip reaffirms the age-old message of the Golden Rule while simultaneously lampooning the great American institutions of social conservatism and religious chauvinism, along with its inbred kissing cousin, evangelical consumerism.
For as long as anyone can remember, the inhabitants of the tiny seaside village of Frip have raised goats, eking out a living by supplying the neighboring villages with goat milk. For just as long, Frip has been plagued by a colony of dim-witted, multi-eyed, goat-loving aquatic cockleburs known as gappers. Each morning the gappers wriggle from the waves to serenade the smelly objects of their affection and, each day, the weary children of Frip dutifully remove the pests with gapper-brushes, collect them in gapper-sacks, and toss them back into the sea.
As all good things must come to an endin parables, allegories, and illustrated fables, anywaythe day soon comes when the staid Frippian monoculture must confront a radically new paradigm. More specifically, one morning, a moderately less-stupid gapper realizes that one of the village's three houses is considerably closer to the water's edge than the other two and, for efficiency's sake, he urges his fellow gappers to concentrate their goat-addled adorations on this single location. For the neighboring Romo and Ronson families, this newly gapperless situation is the occasion for considerable self-congratulatory enthusiasm. However, for young Capable and her recently widowed father, who now must treble their gapper-brushing, sacking, and tossing efforts, this turn of events is overwhelming.
Capable's appeals for neighborly assistance are greeted with pompous disbelief ("Are those gappers our gappers? Are those goats our goats?), and her attempts to get rid of the gappers, while ingenious, end in failure...until she decides upon a course of action so simpleand yet so radicalthat nothing and no one in the village of Frip will ever be the same.