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The Very Persistent Gappers of Frip by George Saunders

This is a charming tale for children of all ages – a wonderfully quirky novella, that has been matched by equally bizarre illustrations and produced as a singleton in a neat slim volume.

Three families live in a hamlet called Frip. They all keep goats and live off the profits from selling the milk. However in the sea nearby, there are creatures called gappers, who come out of the water each night and attach themselves to the goats, squealing with pleasure. The noise drives the goats mad, and their milk production dries up, and no milk means no living for the villagers of Frip. So each day the children of the families remove the gappers and throw them back into the sea. It’s hard work for them all.

One day, one of the less stupid gappers worked out that one of the houses was closer to the sea than the others, there was no need to attach themselves to the goats that were further away. The family they chose was that of a young girl called Capable, who lived with her Dad, having lost her mother not long ago. Capable is overwhelmed by the extra work as she has to look after her still-grieving father, so she asks her neighbours for help …

You’ve guessed it. This is a story about neighbourliness and being a good Samaritan. Capable’s neighbours are a selfish lot, and she works out a way to turn her situation around and engineers a happy ending.

The story is whimsical, sweet and a little bit mad in its concept – just the thing for me – a sideways look at an otherwise simple tale. I adored the illustrations which are folksy yet mad too; they match the tale perfectly, yet are not the stuff of a traditional children’s book.

This was my introduction to George Saunders. This children’s novella may have been a US bestseller but he is best known as an exponent of the short form for adults. His second collection ‘Pastoralia‘ probably being his best known work due to the cave-girl on the cover. A piece by Saunders in the Guardian back in 2005 when Gappers was published, (which I found via John Self and thence ordered some Saunders books), gives some clues on what to expect when I venture into reading his other stories, for I’m definitely intrigued by this writer. (8/10)

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I bought this book. To explore further on Amazon UK, please click below:

The Very Persistent Gappers of Frip by George Saunders, pub Bloomsbury 2000, 96 pages.
Pastoralia by George Saunders.

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