Michael Johnson, Square Books, Oxford, Miss.

Shane Jones's debut novel, Light Boxes, began with a 500-copy print run by Publishing Genius. Then Spike Jones called, wanting to buy the movie rights. Now Penguin has picked it up for a May release, and this exciting work will finally reach the audience it deserves. Set in a time of endless February, the villagers have decided something must be done. February (the month, but also a deity-like character) has banned flight. Five men in bird masks call themselves the War Effort. Children with kites drawn on their hands are missing. The end product is a strange mix of Richard Brautigan, Italo Calvino, and Jim Henson (all three are mentioned in the novel). Jones has written a tale that is dreamy yet personal, experimental yet accessible. Light Boxes will be important not just for the power of its prose but also, hopefully, because it might give large publishers an excuse to once again take chances on innovative novels by young writers.