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copyright George Saunders, August 2000.   Illustrated by Lane Smith. Villard Books. 96 pages. Children's book, sort of.


This is another one of those damn parable things that appeal equally to children AND adults. And guess what?   IT'S GREAT!

The story is hencelike: Gappers are these freaky little burr-like sea creatures that crawl up out of the brine and fasten themselves to the hides of their true 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 get skinny and stop giving milk."

The village children have to brush the gappers off the goats eight times a day and dump em in the ocean. It's a pain in the ass for our poor hero Capable, who suffers often but never complains. Plus, the kids up the street are assholes, and her dad's well-meaning but kind of a dork, and she doesn't get much sleep cause the gappers keep hollering.

It ends happily, of course, not a big surprise, but the way it's told is excellent - funny little details you won't see coming - and the illustrations are what really make the book a winner. Lane Smith is my hero. He illustrated The Stinky Cheese Man, and this is more of the same nutty collage-style brilliance. It's clever. You'll like it.

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