cover image 29 Myths on the Swinster Pharmacy

29 Myths on the Swinster Pharmacy

Lemony Snicket, illus. by Lisa Brown. McSweeney’s McMullens, $14.95 (32p) ISBN 978-1-938073-78-6

Every town has one: that tchotchke shop/storefront psychic/drugstore that raises questions like “How does that place stay in business?” Snicket and Brown (The Latke Who Couldn’t Stop Screaming) examine one such emporium of enigma, the Swinster Pharmacy, its very name almost “sinister.” Two children are fascinated by the store and what it might sell, and their 29 notes and comments comprise the narrative. This isn’t a book about solving a mystery—entering the pharmacy would, after all, basically put the matter to rest. Instead, Snicket and Brown let readers dwell in the gray, desolate weirdness of the downtown (a foldout map of the neighborhood is included). While the book successfully evokes a sense of unease about the store, as well as the way children create mysteries out of the quotidian, the observations are often opaque (“Nothing’s perfect. The Swinster Pharmacy is not perfect. The glow of the moon on the car, there, is not perfect”) or banal (“I was going to write a poem about the Swinster Pharmacy”), making the mystery one that belongs to these two children, not one readers can share in. Ages 7–up. (Feb.)