Return of the Dapper Men by Jim Cann and Janet Lee sat on my To Be Read list for three years…and then I read it in forty-five minutes. Possibly because it’s a graphic novel, which I may or may not have known when I added it to the list. I can’t remember anymore! I’m not sure whether it’s sci fi or fantasy, but it has a lovely whimsy that I think makes it altogether suitable for Once Upon a Time.
The story is set “long from now, in a land known as Anorev.” Somehow or someway, time has stopped, creating only an endless Now. There dwell in Anorev only children under the age of eleven, who live below the ground and endlessly play; and robots, who live aboveground and endlessly work. Ayden, a human boy, and Zoe, a robot girl, have a unique friendship, and wander and wonder together. And then one day, 314 Dapper Men, with identical bowler hats and umbrellas, descend from the sky to restart time and change everything.
If you’re thinking this doesn’t make much sense, you would be right! This is not a book that offers explanations, or gives answers on a plot level. The only “answers” are on a metaphorical, emotional level. I tend to be suspicious of obscure books posing as profound, but in this case, I don’t think it’s just a pose!
Even though I read this in less than an hour, that was due to short length, not fast reading. This is a book that demands slow reading. It’s rich in details, both in text and pictures, which turn a bizarre story into something beautiful.
The drawings throughout are soft and whimsical with few straight lines and many textures. And the text is full of lovely lines like this one about tomorrows, “the wonderful thing that follows dreaming. Where everything is possible as long as you keep one foot in front of the other and make sure a tock follows every tick. And hopefully, time for tea.”
I could ramble on, but perhaps I’ll give you my favorite page instead, the page that introduces Ayden and Zoe.
If I didn’t love this book enough already, it also draws from classic fantasy, opening with the lines, “To anyone who ever fell down a rabbit hole, walked to the sidewalk’s end, danced a wild rumpus, or followed the second star to the right, may you find adventure, wonder, and a little something from which dreams are made in these pages.” And the pages do contain a setting that seems to combine Alice’s rabbit hole and Peter’s Neverland, make allusions to Pinocchio and Shakespeare–and I like to believe that the reference to “the little white bird who had become an angel” was a quiet nod to J. M. Barrie, and one of my very favorite books.
I don’t really understand Return of the Dapper Men, and plenty of things about it didn’t make a bit of sense…but just this once, I don’t mind in the slightest!
Buy it here: Return of the Dapper Men