Return of the Dapper Men by Jim McCann, illus. Janet Lee

>Anorev is a place where people and machines have forgotten how to remember. One day there was a “tick” but no “tock” and day but no night and without yesterday there can be no tomorrow. Books are just convenient flat objects a child can stand on in order to reach things.

Ayden is a young boy living in Anorev who doesn’t fit in, and Zoe is a machine and his friend. This unlikely pair can feel that things are wrong but are unsure what is wrong and don’t know how to fix it. Everything changes one day when the Dapper Men descend from the sky and the “tock” returns.

Return of the Dapper Men would actually be at home in the children’s, young adult or adult graphic novel collections. Part of its beauty and charm is its layers of meaning. In many ways, it reminds me of Alice in Wonderland. The language is sometimes deliberately obtuse to give it layers of meaning, which allows children and parents enjoying this story together to enjoy it at different levels. It is gorgeously illustrated with a blend of simplicity and intricacy and some wonderful, complex paneling.

The Strange Affair of Spring Heeled Jack

>In this wonderfully inventive debut, Mark Hodder pulls together a variety of genres (including time travel, steampunk, alternate history, mystery and more) into a rolicking story set in an alternate Victorian England.
Captain Sir Richard Francis Burton, a Victorian era Renaissance Man, follows a different path in life when he is asked by the prime minister in 1861 to investigate the sightings of the (possibly mythic) figure Spring Heeled Jack. What follows is a tale of werewolves, a talking orangutan, steam-powered velocipedes and rotorchairs as Burton tries to locate Spring Heeled Jack and find out why boys from the East End are disappearing. Burton recruits his friend, the poet Algernon Swinburne, to aid him in his investigation as he faces off with such Victorian era giants as Charles Darwin, Laurence Oliphant, Isambard Kingdom Brunel and Florence Nightingale.
The Strange Affair of Spring Heeled Jack is the first in the planned Burton and Swinburne series. While Hodder pulled everything together into a satisfying ending for Spring Heeled Jack, there is more than enough there for another narrative featuring the intrepid Burton and Swinburne.