Return of the Dapper Men by Jim McCann

dapper-menCindy: Wow. Lynn saw Return of the Dapper Men (Archaia 2010) on Booklist’s Top Ten Graphic Novels for Youth: 2011 list and tracked it down. We had missed seeing this when it published in November. This is an intriguing story, with philosophical themes to explore (or not) and exquisite artwork…all of which will prompt many rereadings. In a unique land where time has stopped, and adults have disappeared, the children live underground and machines (robots) live in the houses left above ground. Without time, it is perpetually the same day. There is only now, no past and no future, and no memory. Books are not read, they are used to stand on to reach higher. One day 314 Dapper Men descend from the sky, umbrellas for parachuttes…and once teens are introduced to the vocabulary word “dapper” (certainly lacking from most teens’ personal experience of dress) they will understand the title if not the men themselves. One of the Dapper Men, 41, befriends the hero and heroine and helps them not only to find answers for their world, but to remember the questions. Here’s a sample of the dialogue that will give readers pause to reflect:

Ayden: I think I saw what I’m going to be.

41: That’s destiny.

Ayden: And it I don’t want it?

41: That’s choice.

Ayden: So what’s the point of having one if the other could happen? Which one is right?

41: That, my dear boy, is life.

The artwork is stunning, but I’ll let Lynn enthuse more about that.  I will say that after reading the explanation for Janet Lee’s multi-step intricate process I had to immediately flip back to the beginning of the book and examine the art with whole new eyes. Fabulous.

Ayden: So that’s it, then?

41: Far from it.

Ayden: Then why did you stop talking?

41: My mouth is tired. And words are tedious sometimes.

Ayden: I still have so many questions.

41: I know! Isn’t that wonderful?

Lynn:  I tracked this book down in the adult graphic novel section of our public library and, not really knowing what to expect, gasped when I saw the cover.  I couldn’t resist opening the book and it took all my willpower to wait to read it after that first glimpse.  Sometimes when you open a book for the first time you just know that this has been created with a passion for the craft.  This is one of those books, written and drawn with such a sense of love for story and for the readers who value story.  I’ve only read this book once and I can’t wait to dive back into it.  This is a sort of steampunk Peter Pan with robots and I am completely smitten.  This is a book for book lovers of all ages and a book that will yield new wonder on each reading.

I will happily rave about the illustrations as they are astonishing:  lush and vibrant with a sort of art deco feel, richly detailed and absolutely perfectly paired with the text.  Buy this for middle school and high school libraries and don’t forget to order one for your personal collections.  My copy is already on the way!  I plan to read it again with a nice cup of warm tea.

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About the Author:

Cindy Dobrez and Lynn Rutan are Booklist reviewers and middle-school librarians who have chaired both ALA’s Best Books for Young Adults and the Michael L. Printz Award for YA Literature committees. Follow Bookends on Twitter at @BookendsBlog. You can also find Cindy at @cdobrez and Lynn at @482april.

3 Comments on "Return of the Dapper Men by Jim McCann"

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  1. andykaiser@gmail.com' Andy Kaiser says:

    I’ve been spending time catching up on my reading backlog, and recently purchased this on recommendation from Bookends. To agree with everything said above: Return of the Dapper Men is wonderful. When I finished it, I was trying to explain it to my wife, but the book covers so much, it’s something not easily explained. It’s a mortality tale, a futuristic fantasy, a social commentary and an overall great story.

    I haven’t yet mentioned the fantastic artwork, and reading the “how did we make the book” section at the end gives you info on what a staggering amount of effort it took to create the look.

    Excellent story, excellent book. Thanks Cindy and Lynn!

  2. coffeeisluv@gmail.com' macavity says:

    I just finished reading it even though I was supposed to wait until I’ve finished all of my homework. But it’s a fantastic, easy read with beautiful artwork. I kept thinking to myself actually how inexpensive it was for the amount of time and effort that had to be put into this finished project!
    And it has an attached red silk looking bookmark. (in love)

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