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April Staff Picks!

Check out this month’s staff picks from the Betty’s Books crew!


Alain’s Pick


Gender Queer book coverGender Queer by Maia Kobabe
Reading this book was one of the first times I’ve ever seen a gender experience so similar to my own on page. Even in the areas I didn’t fully relate to, I couldn’t help but connect with and cherish this book. I was able to see the feelings I’ve grown up understanding, thinking no one else felt the same, in a loving and proud way. In this biography, Maia shares eir feelings on gender that have developed with em throughout different relationships and experiences in life. E wasn’t always drawn to making autobiographical works, sharing that e was reluctant to in the beginning of this book, but e arrived at the idea that this is something worth sharing so others can feel seen, learn, and find language that may help as we interact with the world. This book is part relatable memoir, part existential questioning, but throughout it runs a thread of gentleness and curiosity to the younger versions of ourselves as we learn how to best be who we are.

This is on the banned book list in Missouri for showing nudity and speaking on sexual experience. It shouldn’t be; I feel this book is one of the first biographical and educational resources for people growing up trans. It not only helps those who feel reflected in it, but it can also allow others who are different to look deeper into others’ lives and empathize with a group that is often politically misrepresented and at risk. This book should be read and talked about and questioned and shared by everyone everywhere, just like the resources and stories we read about other minority and underrepresented groups. This country has systems of violence and oppression in place for so many people, and in order to start really combatting that we must read all stories, not just the ones that interest or represent us. I know I am constantly trying to diversify my shelf, and if this isn’t a book you’d normally read, I’d encourage you to check it out!

The author Maia Kobabe uses spivak pronouns, a set of gender neutral pronouns. The pronouns are e/em/eir, so you use them in the following ways:
E is on the bus
I talked to em
It’s eir book
If you’re struggling to use them, try making a sentence with another pronoun you know well first and then replace the pronoun with the correlated one. Practice is key!


Alex’s Pick


The Accursed Vampire: The Curse at Witch Camp book coverThe Accursed Vampire: The Curse at Witch Camp by Madeline McGrane
I’ve been following these little vamps and their adventures for years and years via author Madeline McGrane’s tumblr account, so you can imagine my thrill when the first volume of The Accursed Vampire came out this past year. Its follow-up, which is just as visually enchanting and deeply heartfelt as its predecessor, dropped in February, and I’m so glad it did! If you’ve yet to read the first volume, here’s a quick run-down: the books follow Drago, Quintus, and Eztli, three vampire kids, and eventually, their semi-adoptive parents, witch and vamp power couple, Ayesha and Sara.

In both books, Drago is ostensibly the protagonist, and we follow their journey through self-actualization and confrontation of trauma and loneliness. If you think that sounds like a heavy set of topics for a kids’ book, you don’t read enough middle grade books, my friend! And if that’s the case, you couldn’t pick a better set of books to start with. The color palette McGrane utilizes is incredibly gorgeous, and I’m still in awe of how such a “simple” art style can be so expressive. Drago in particular serves silly and grumpy little expressions that often make me laugh out loud. They are just too cute!

If you’re into wonderful art, subtle character development, and found family tropes, this is certainly the book for you. Bonus: the paper has that high quality kind of glossy finish that makes the reading experience even more enjoyable.


Betty’s Pick


The Wondrous Wonders book coverLove Everlasting by Tom King and Elsa Charretier
Do you like science fiction, mystery or romance? Perhaps time travel? Check out this new-ish Image series–Love Everlasting! In this comic that started as a substack during pandemic lockdown, Tom King tells the story of Joan Peterson who is trapped in an endless cycle of pulpy romances. Every time she falls in love, she wakes up in a different time with a different romance afoot. If she tries to avoid love then she’s shot by a mysterious cowboy. If you’re skeptical of romance, you’ll enjoy the subversion and critique of the genre; while if you like romance, you’ll enjoy the celebration of the melodrama. Somehow Love Everlasting threads the needle between the two.

The art by Elsa Charritier is perfectly vintage pulp–complete with some bright red gore now and then. It’s fun with a capital F, but also purposeful in advancing the uneasy and mysterious mood that builds through each “love story.” Also, I enjoyed the attention to fashions throughout the eras -Western, mod, flapper, Victorian, etc. Finally, the colors by Matt Hollingsworth are delicious. My eyes were gobbling them up on every page. The palette shifts from issue to issue to reflect the changing time period, and pay homage to pulp comics of the past throughout, but still feel fresh and funky.

Besides the genre fans I already mentioned, I also recommend this series especially for fans of Paper Girls. There’s some of the same mystery/sci-fi aspects, and the delightful visual flair as well.


Colin’s Pick


Do a Powerbomb book coverBatman/Superman World’s Finest: The Devil Nezha by Mark Waid, Dan Mora, and Tamra Bonvillain
Batman/Superman World’s Finest: The Devil Nezha certainly lives up to its name; it has Batman, Superman, the Devil Nezha, it’s volume 1, it has the world, and it is one fine book! No prior knowledge is needed to jump right into this deeply satisfying read. Mark Waid after years spent with those other guys returns to the DC universe with an untold tale from The Man of Steel and the Caped Crusaders past and Dan Mora knocks it outta the park with art! Plus this is secretly a Doom Patrol book so you get more hero bang for more hero buck!


Mary’s Pick


Spring Cakes book coverSpring Cakes by Miranda Harmon
It’s time to bake magical spring cakes! But can these adorable kittens find all the ingredients? Find out in this early graphic reader!
It’s springtime! Mama Cat is ready to bake her famous spring cakes, enchanted cupcakes heaped with sparkling frosting. Can kittens Nutmeg, Cinnamon, and Ginger find all the magical ingredients she needs? The quest begins! This imaginative and adventurous graphic reader comes from rising comics star Miranda Harmon, co-creator of Mayor Good Boy.

I Like to Read Comics are created for kids just learning to read. Sequential art and simple text–and a powerful relationship between the two–are the perfect conditions for developing readers.


Bruce’s Pick


The Hospital Book book coverThe Hospital Book by Lisa Brown
Going to the hospital can be strange and scary, but this book will comfort and reassure even the youngest patient.
When a little girl develops a bad stomach ache, it’s time to go to the hospital. We follow her experience from arrival through diagnosis, anesthesia, and recovery

Lisa Brown is a graphic novelist as well as a picture book creator whose talents inform the design of this book chock full of speech bubbles that will delight kids and parents alike. This is a funny, accessible, and above all comforting tale of a very scary experience in the life of any child.

With illustrations brimming with action reminiscent of Richard Scarry, Lisa Brown once again creates a story full of humor and empathy that will delight and comfort most any kid fearful about a hospital visit. Fans of her hugely successful The Airport Book will instantly recognize the girl and her family.

A Junior Library Guild Gold Standard Selection