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The Very Persistent Gappers of Frip

The Very Persistent Gappers of Frip

5.0 4
by George Saunders, Lane Smith (Illustrator)

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Gappers will get your goat. Literally. If you don't brush them off and return them to the ocean, whence they arrive every day, these bright orange, many-eyed creatures will cover your goats, and the goats will stop giving milk.

In a village called Frip, goat's milk was the entire economy. Three families lived there—the Romos, the Ronsens, and a little


Gappers will get your goat. Literally. If you don't brush them off and return them to the ocean, whence they arrive every day, these bright orange, many-eyed creatures will cover your goats, and the goats will stop giving milk.

In a village called Frip, goat's milk was the entire economy. Three families lived there—the Romos, the Ronsens, and a little girl named Capable and her widowed father, who wanted everything to remain the same. It didn't. One day, the Gappers, despite an average IQ of 3.7 (±.02), decided for a good reason to concentrate on Capable's goats. Oh, how the Romos and Ronsens turned their backs on the gapper-ridden Capable! Oh, how they indeed lorded it over her! What kinds of creatures are we, one wonders, when such selfishness so often springs up so spontaneously among us?

And, given the coldness of her neighbors' shoulders, what will Capable do about her Gapper plague, as her share of the economy dries up? Literally. The Very Persistent Gappers of Frip, with a brilliant story by award-ridden short-story master George Saunders and fifty-two haunting and hilarious illustrations by bestseller-plagued artist/author Lane Smith, answers that question. In doing so it tells a tale as ancient as the Bible and as modern as a memo from the Federal Reserve Board. And funnier than both—which isn't saying all that much, admittedly. You don't get to laugh and gaze in visual awe and pleasure all that often when the Golden Rule comes under such serious attack and such staunch defense as it did in Frip.

An adult story for children, a children's story for adults, an earthlings' story for aliens, an oceanside fable for the landlocked, acapitalist tool for anarchists, a fish story for loaves, The Very Persistent Gappers of Frip represents the classic instant of two young geniuses colliding and colluding. The result is—what else?—an instant classic!

Editorial Reviews

A Review of The Very Persistent Gappers of Frip

Move over, Bill Bennett—the 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 end—in parables, allegories, and illustrated fables, anyway—the 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 simple—and yet so radical—that nothing and no one in the village of Frip will ever be the same.

Greg Marrs

Barnes & Noble Guide to New Fiction
An illustrated modern fable about the virtues of hard work, the hassle of bad neighbors, and the "Golden Rule."
Publishers Weekly - Publisher's 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 sea--inhabited 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.
O'Henry Award-winning short story writer Saunders combines his talent with Caldecott honor-winning illustrator Smith in a fable that will appeal to young and old alike. The residents of Frip are plagued by orange gappers, burr-shaped sea creatures the size of baseballs. The gappers love goats and cling to them while shrieking with pleasure. One day the gappers discover that they do not have to travel as far from the sea to latch onto the goats if they all stop in Capable' s yard, which is nearest the sea. When Capable asks for help brushing the gappers off of her goats—their shrieking keeps the goats awake and renders them unable to give milk—the other two families of Frip decide that they must be better than Capable and her father because the gappers are leaving their goats alone. With no milk from her goats, Capable must find another source of income. Capable learns to fish, a talent that she later teaches the other residents of Frip when they no longer brush gappers from their goats. The gappers also wise up—loving goats is stupid. They bite when the gappers show them affection. Fences do not bite, so today, Frip is "a seaside town known for its relatively happy fisherpeople and its bright orange, shrieking fences." Saunders's witty writing and Smith's humorous illustrations will appeal to teens of all ages. English and economics teachers might want to add this tale to their classroom reading. Like the residents of Frip, the world is economically connected, and people must solve economic problems either together or alone, a concept beautifully illustrated by the eccentric residents of Frip. VOYA CODES: 5Q 4P M J S (Hard to imagine it being any better written; Broad general YAappeal; Middle School, defined as grades 6 to 8; Junior High, defined as grades 7 to 9; Senior High, defined as grades 10 to 12). 2000, Villard, 96p. Ages 12 to 18. Reviewer: Ruth Cox VOYA, February 2001 (Vol. 23, No.6)
Children's Literature
The three-house village of Frip is beset by Gappers¾spiky orange, baseball-size critters who climb from the ocean and are attracted to village goats. The shrieking attacks stop the goats from giving the milk that must be sold so that the people can live. The children's endless job is to collect and return the Gappers to the sea. When the Gappers decide to concentrate on only one house, poor, motherless Capable, whose goats they get, can find no help from her neighbors. As the Gappers move on, disaster looms for the rest. But clever Capable finds a solution. This gem of a multi-level morality play is full of sly humor, along with only too real examples of the worst of human nature. Smith creates a world mysterious in its subdued colors and wasted landscapes but also comic in its portrayal of characters. The many full and double-page illustrations for the lengthy text create detailed settings for the sequence of scenes of this melodramatic fable, while many vignettes spotlight bits of action. Smith's unusual, non-naturalistic style is complemented by careful design from cover to cover, with translucent jacket overlay and striking endpapers. 2000, Villard/Random House, $23.95. Ages 5 up. Reviewer: Ken Marantz and Sylvia Marantz
School Library Journal
Adult/High School-Life in Frip, while not necessarily pleasant or fun, was at least predictable. Every day, the gappers would inch out of the sea, attach themselves to goats (which they love), and begin to shriek happily. The goats (who don't love the gappers) would get thin and nervous, and stop giving milk. To save them (and the local economy), the children of Frip would remove the gappers and cast them back into the sea. And so it went, until the day that one gapper figured out that there was no need to split themselves among the three houses in the village. Instead, they could lavish all their affection on the goats of the house closest to the sea. This decision eventually leads to bad blood among neighbors, lots of money for the strong men from Fritch, a restructuring of the local economy, and a resolution to the gappers' sadly unrequited love. This delightful story is lavishly illustrated and the text and the pictures complement one another perfectly. It is a parable of sorts, and one could probably even find a hint of a moral. It is also a wickedly funny, entertaining, and engaging read. Oh, and if at this point you are wondering what a gapper is, close your eyes and picture a bright orange burr about the size of a baseball, with many eyes and one mouth, with which to shriek happily.-Susan Salpini, Purcellville Library, VA Copyright 2002 Cahners Business Information.
Nicely illustrated by fifty-two haunting and hilarious illustrations by Lane Smith, The Very Persistent Gappers Of Frip is a multi-layered morality tale for adults told in George Saunders distinctive, quirky, soulful style. A great adult fable, this remarkable and memorable tale is set in a village called Frip where goat's milk is the sole economy and the population is three families (the Romos, the Ronsens, and a little girl named Capable along with her widowed father). The Very Persistent Gappers Of Frip is one of those off-beat and original stories that will be read and re-read by generations of appreciative readers.
A fairy tale for mature audiences. . . Growing up, I laughed at the same jokes my parents did when watching television shows like Rocky and Bullwinkle or, later, The Simpsons. As an adult, I understood why they were laughing, and the jokes became much funnier. In other words, while children will enjoy The Very Persistent Gappers of Frip, only adults will fully appreciate it. . . Right below the surface are issues like parental responsibility, abandonment, and the absence of a social safety net, to name a few examples. As you turn the pages, you'll discover the real magic of the book: characters that make you smile, because you know someone like these fascinating residents of Frip.
U.S. News & World Report
Lane Smith's manic, moody illustrations are suffused with misery, then joy, as Frip learns self-reliance.
Lisa Schwarzbaum
In a perfect world, every child would own a copy of this profound, funny fable about sharing and selfishness and stupidity and independent thinking and how the world is and how it ought to be...They'd all delight in the cockeyed story and the energetic drawing style...Every adult would own a copy too, and would marvel at how this smart, subversive little book written by the effervescently original author of Pastoralia and CivilWarLand in Bad Decline is even deeper and more hilarious than any child could know.
Entertainment Weekly
From the Publisher
Praise for George Saunders
“No one writes more powerfully than George Saunders.”—Michiko Kakutani, The New York Times
“Saunders makes you feel as though you are reading fiction for the first time.”—Khaled Hosseini
“George Saunders is a complete original. . . . There is no one better, no one more essential to our national sense of self and sanity.”—Dave Eggers
“Few people cut as hard or deep as Saunders does.”—Junot Díaz
“Not since Twain has America produced a satirist this funny.”—Zadie Smith
Praise for The Very Persistent Gappers of Frip
“In a perfect world, every child would own a copy of this profound, funny fable. . . . Every adult would own a copy too, and would marvel at how this smart, subversive little book is even deeper and more hilarious than any child could know.”Entertainment Weekly
“Saunders’s idiosyncratic voice makes an almost perfect accompaniment to children’s book illustrator Smith’s heightened characterizations and slightly surreal backdrops.”—Publishers Weekly
“A riveting, funny, and sly new fairy tale.”Miami Herald

Product Details

Gardners Books
Publication date:

Read an Excerpt

Ever Had a Burr in Your Sock?

A gapper's like that, only bigger, about the size of a baseball, bright orange, with multiple eyes like a potato. And gappers love goats. 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 gets skinny and stop giving milk. And in towns that survive by selling goat-milk, if there's no goat-milk, there's no money, and if there's no money, there's no food or housing or clothing, and so on, in gapper-infested towns. since nobody likes the idea of starving naked outdoors, it is necessary at all costs to keep the gappers off the goats.

Such a town was Frip.

Frip was three leaning shacks by the sea. Frip was three tiny goats-yards into which eight times a day the children of the shacks would trudge with gapper brushes and cloth gapper-sacks that tied at the top. After brushing the gappers off the goats, the children would walk to a cliff at the edge of town and empty their gapper-sacks into the sea.

The gappers would sink to the bottom and immediately begin inching their way across the ocean floor, and three hours later would arrive again at Frip and split into three groups, one per house, only to be brushed off again by the same weary and discouraged children, who would stumble home and fall into their little beds for a few hours of sleep, dreaming, if they dreamed at all, of gappers putting them into sacks and dropping them into the sea.

In the shack closest to the sea lived a girl named Capable.

What People are Saying About This

Robert Coles
A wonderfully engaging story told with wry humor and with moral energy, and illustrated beautifully. We all live in this book's world of Frip, and are connected to others in that world , no matter their nature–that's what we're prompted to remember by this marvelous tale.

Meet the Author

George Saunders is the author of eight books, including the story collections Pastoralia and Tenth of December, which was a finalist for the National Book Award. He has received fellowships from the Lannan Foundation, the American Academy of Arts and Letters, and the Guggenheim Foundation. In 2006 he was awarded a MacArthur Fellowship. In 2013 he was awarded the PEN/Malamud Award for Excellence in the Short Story and was included in Time’s list of the one hundred most influential people in the world. He teaches in the creative writing program at Syracuse University.
Lane Smith is a four-time recipient of the New York Times Best Illustrated Book award and a two-time Caldecott Honor recipient. In 2012 the Eric Carle Museum of Picture Book Art named him a Carle Artist for “lifelong innovation in the field of children’s picture books,” and in 2014 he was awarded the lifetime achievement award from the Society of Illustrators. He is the illustrator of many books, including The Stinky Cheese Man, and the author/illustrator of It’s a Book, Grandpa Green, and John, Paul, George & Ben, among others. He is married to book designer Molly Leach.

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The Very Persistent Gappers of Frip 5 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 4 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I bought this book for my 7-year-old daughter so I could share my love of George Saunders' writing with her. She is an exceptional reader and therefore the prose is a bit simple for her. However she was really tickled that I bought her a book with pictures in it. She thought I had decided she was too old for pictures. The artwork and the story are both unusual and excellent. The book also delivers a nice message. Fun read, cool artwork, good message. 5 stars across the board.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Guest More than 1 year ago
This is my very favorite book to read to my grandchildren. It's unique, funny and exciting. My grandchildren love me extra after reading this book to them and I get a chance to show off my dramatic side.
Guest More than 1 year ago
This book was amazing! It had a very interesting plot. READ IT! Like I said, it's awesome. It's so good... I'm 'speechless'.