Young investigators, a girl and boy old enough to ride the city bus alone, offer 29 observations associated with a building in another town.
The Swinster Pharmacy seems to be one of those strangely inaccessible businesses engaged in unknown and possibly mysterious activities. A cat closely resembling the cat on the “Lost” flyer posted near the Swinster Pharmacy slips among the scenes. There’s an implication of nonspecific sinister happenings: Much is unexplained and slightly surreal (and the richer for it). From the title (“29 Myths on…”), Snicket channels the slightly awkward, odd syntax of children. Some of the sleuths’ 29 numbered statements are a little spooky—“Dogs bark at it all the time”—while some are slyly funny: “I was going to write a poem about the Swinster Pharmacy.” A sign in the window declares “Included.” Brown’s simple, cartoon-style artwork against a dark background is just right: It’s direct and not overly edgy; her characters are distinctive and expressive. A simple map offers a geographic context for the travels of the sleuthing duo; a glimpse of the basement appears on the cover. The compelling, unexplained goings-on at the Swinster Pharmacy could turn out to be evil or benign or something completely other—readers are never told.
For all its enigmatic nature, the tale provides a clear reason for drawing one’s own conclusions: Observing and recording the results through a personal filter makes a good story. (Picture book. 5-8)