Check out this month’s staff picks from the Betty’s Books crew!
May Staff Picks!
Are you busy all the time? Do you struggle with the concept of a “work-life balance”? Well, you’re in luck, because so does our friend Death. After being forced by HR to take a year long sabbatical, Death has to learn how to live and enjoy life without the constant stress of working. This lighthearted satire is an inside scoop into Death’s attempts to learn what to do with his free time and initial loneliness. The book becomes the journal that Death keeps, documenting everything from his attempts at dating to netflix marathons. This book is a lovely snippet of finding yourself after you’ve been swept up in the stress of life for too long.
At this point of the year, between the end of semester stress for anyone in school or the lull of summer for people working full time, life can feel exhausting. I’m going through a ton of new things, like moving to my first real apartment, finishing big art projects, and getting closer to graduating, so reading this book was a nice break to just sit and relax with. The illustrations are so textured and lovely, making them easy to get lost in. This book can be a quick read, but I think it really excels from being something to sit with and reflect on as you read. I would highly recommend it to anyone that’s starting to feel overwhelmed and doesn’t have the time or energy for a lengthy self care day. I’m definitely taking notes from Death’s bucket list of things to do on his break.
This month I returned to an old fave, and although it may not be new to the world OR myself, it’s so dear to my heart that I felt it’d be a crime not to get it on the blog somewhere! Trung Le Nguyen’s fantastic story about a thirteen-year-old Vietnamese-American boy struggling to come out to his parents is an amazing introduction into the concept that some tales are best told through the comics medium.
The Magic Fish unfolds utilizing strict color themes: every scene is depicted in either red, yellow, or blue, and which color you see tells you what time and place you’re in. Red for the present day; yellow for flashbacks showing protagonist Tien’s parents’ experiences in Vietnam before immigrating to the U.S.; and finally, blue, for the fairytale scenes Tien and his mother share with each other that ultimately help bridge the language barrier Tien finds himself faced with when trying to talk about being gay.
This book is touching, gorgeously illustrated (the clothing in the fairytales are absolutely stunning, and Nguyen includes tons of drawings and notes about them in the back!), and so satisfying. If you’re in the mood for an uplifting coming-of-age story perfect for anyone from age twelve to a hundred, this one’s for you.
Take Sailor Moon, mix in a little Power Rangers and Cardcaptor Sakura plus some fruits (YES–fruits!) and BOOM–you’ve got Flavor Girls (AKA “Sacred Fruit Guardians”). Our girls, Noako, Camille and V, are the only hope for fighting the mysterious aliens from outer space who parked their ship in orbit years ago. Meanwhile, Sara is just trying to ace her next test until she is anointed as the fourth and final Flavor Girl. With the help of their mentor, Himiko, will they be able to save the Earth from impending destruction?
I will admit that I love gobbling up girl heroes in any comic format, but this one was truly delightful. Each of the four girls has a distinct personality and intriguing backstory, as do the Agarthans (the alien antagonists). This series also has things on its mind. It’s not just fruity fluff. There are some heavy moments of loss as well as criticism of capitalist exploitation of the environment. And…the overt homages to Sailor Moon are a delight.
The art and story are by French illustrator, Loic Lacatelli-Kournwsky, and the character design and depiction of magic sparkle with girl power. The colors by Angel de Santiago are a visual treat. Since the stylish palette is neither primary nor black and white like some of its influences–it contributes to the feeling that while there’s something familiar about this story–it’s doing its own thing. Keep an eye out for blueish gray panels that signify flashbacks.
This book is perfect for fans of any of the influences I’ve cited, or people who just want to read a fun female forward superhero story with some oomph. Age recommendation: 12+
Poison Ivy is on a mission and that mission is to kill humanity with a fungal virus (I get it). G. Willow Wilson has Pam go on a feminist cross country road trip of self discovery!
Seriously though, this book is a lotta fun and Marcio Takara’s art is great at depicting both eco and body horror (the older I get the more I love body horror and with the world going to hell, eco horror is hitting that spot just nice). This book is gay as hell: first issue dropped on Pride Month last year and recently won GLAAD’s Outstanding Comic of 2023! This is a great book to jump into an ongoing series. Wait What! Yes, this series was originally a mini (6 issues) then expanded to maxi (12 issues) and now has been upgraded to a full ongoing (as many issues as they can muster) the dream of any miniseries.