Thursday, April 21, 2011

Return of the Dapper Men by Jim McCann and Janet Lee

Reading this outstanding graphic novel is like stepping through a looking-glass. Everything looks sort-of familiar, yet not. We've landed in a Victorian-era place where time has stopped and night never comes. In a city by a sea, children play nonstop amid underground machinery. Robots work nonstop above ground; the two groups have little to do with each other. An unlikely friendship between a human boy and a robot girl is at the center of the story.

Janet Lee's decoupage art is absolutely sumptuous in shades of turquoise, russet and olive green. Cogs and wheels are incorporated into intricate art nouveau decorations. Round little-orphan-Annie eyes and disproportionately large keep-on-truckin' feet add to the distinctive steampunk meets fashion illustration style. The background textures are especially interesting. Text partially-obscured with swaths of paint reminds the reader about hidden things.

Change begins with the arrival of 314 red-headed men, dropping from the sky dressed in identical natty black-and-white striped jackets and green bowler hats, each with a folded umbrella at his side. Like Mary Poppins, they've come to restore order. A fable to delight all ages: Grade 3 - adult.

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