For all its enigmatic nature, the tale provides a clear reason for drawing one’s own conclusions: Observing and recording...

29 MYTHS ON THE SWINSTER PHARMACY

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)

Pub Date: Feb. 11, 2014

ISBN: 978-1-938073-78-6

Page Count: 32

Publisher: McSweeney's McMullens

Review Posted Online: Dec. 18, 2013

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2014

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A touching, beautifully illustrated story of greatest interest to those in the New York City area.

RED AND LULU

A pair of cardinals is separated and then reunited when their tree home is moved to New York City to serve as the Rockefeller Center Christmas tree.

The male cardinal, Red, and his female partner, Lulu, enjoy their home in a huge evergreen tree located in the front yard of a small house in a pleasant neighborhood. When the tree is cut down and hauled away on a truck, Lulu is still inside the tree. Red follows the truck into the city but loses sight of it and gets lost. The birds are reunited when Red finds the tree transformed with colored lights and serving as the Christmas tree in a complex of city buildings. When the tree is removed after Christmas, the birds find a new home in a nearby park. Each following Christmas, the pair visit the new tree erected in the same location. Attractive illustrations effectively handle some difficult challenges of dimension and perspective and create a glowing, magical atmosphere for the snowy Christmas trees. The original owners of the tree are a multiracial family with two children; the father is African-American and the mother is white. The family is in the background in the early pages, reappearing again skating on the rink at Rockefeller Center with their tree in the background.

A touching, beautifully illustrated story of greatest interest to those in the New York City area. (author’s note) (Picture book. 5-8)

Pub Date: Sept. 19, 2017

ISBN: 978-0-7636-7733-6

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Candlewick

Review Posted Online: Aug. 21, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 2017

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Action, clever humor, delightful illustrations and expectation-defying secret identities—when does the next one come out?

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THE PRINCESS IN BLACK

From the Princess in Black series , Vol. 1

Perfect Princess Magnolia has a secret—her alter ego is the Princess in Black, a superhero figure who protects the kingdom!

When nosy Duchess Wigtower unexpectedly drops by Princess Magnolia’s castle, Magnolia must protect her secret identity from the duchess’s prying. But then Magnolia’s monster alarm, a glitter-stone ring, goes off. She must save the day, leaving the duchess unattended in her castle. After a costume change, the Princess in Black joins her steed, Blacky (public identity: Frimplepants the unicorn), to protect Duff the goat boy and his goats from a shaggy, blue, goat-eating monster. When the monster refuses to see reason, Magnolia fights him, using special moves like the “Sparkle Slam” and the “Twinkle Twinkle Little Smash.” The rounded, cartoony illustrations featuring chubby characters keep the fight sequence soft and comical. Watching the fight, Duff notices suspicious similarities between the Princess in Black and Magnolia—quickly dismissed as “a silly idea”—much like the duchess’s dismissal of some discovered black stockings as being simply dirty, as “princesses don’t wear black.” The gently ironic text will amuse readers (including adults reading the book aloud). The large print and illustrations expand the book to a longish-yet-manageable length, giving newly independent readers a sense of accomplishment. The ending hints at another hero, the Goat Avenger.

Action, clever humor, delightful illustrations and expectation-defying secret identities—when does the next one come out? (Fantasy. 5-8)

Pub Date: Oct. 14, 2014

ISBN: 978-0-7636-6510-4

Page Count: 96

Publisher: Candlewick

Review Posted Online: July 29, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2014

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