This was a quite enjoyable children's book, but it
was touted as an exemplary one. I liked it but couldn't justify giving
as high a ranking as other great books here. In the reviews I read, it
was supposed to be a strikingly different type of children's book, with
something for both kids and adults. But I think it tried too hard to
do this, and fell somewhere vague in the middle of both groups.
The story follows a young girl as she tries to rid
her household of some very persistent gapers, small spiky balls that
look like evil starfish/tribble hybrids. The gappers like to attach themselves
to goats, which are the livelihood of the town of Frip. The young girl,
Capable, naturally learns some important life lessons along the way.
The artwork is the most striking feature of the book,
and it is certainly a unique style, an idiosyncratic blend that's equal
parts Andrew Wyeth and Tim Burton. It's clever, but too melancholy for
a children's book, and you can't look at it for too long.
The writing is filled with tongue-in-cheek asides.
But the story seems disjointed, as if the author had several ideas and
forced them into one tale. All of the characters, except for Capable,
are unlikable and one-dimensional. The text seems too long for what is
essentially a very simple main plot.
If you're interested in this type of cutting-edge children's
book, check out Gaiman and McKean's The Day I Swapped My Dad For Two
Goldfish instead. It takes the best features of Frip and does
them a lot better. It's more succinct, smart, artful, and re-readable.