April 2024 Staff Picks

Spring! New growth, new life. Spring calls to mind bunnies and songbirds and baby chickens, but growth and life are true of other, less adorable things, too. The things that crawl in darkness, the things that burrow, squirm, and hatch. Spring is the time of fickle frosts, of sky-shattering storms, torrential rain and whipping winds. At the same time, new green shoots are coming in, and red-bellied robins perch on tree limbs laden with buds. The sun is shining, and the world is waking up again. In honor of the duplicity of spring, my April picks draw from both camps – sorrow and joy, fear and hope, loss and love. These books get squirmy, friends, and they get storm-cloud heavy sometimes. Let’s brave the storms together and see what bliss waits on the other side. –Lila, Library Assistant

How Can I Help You by Laura Sims

Also available on Libby as an eBook and audiobook.

From the very beginning, we know that Margo is lying. The name she uses is not her own. The history she claims is fiction. And although she’s a star at the Circulation Desk, she’s only pretending. Margo has been behaving for years – since the incident that cost her the last identity she used – but the arrival of a new Reference librarian throws Margo’s mad balance all off-kilter. Patricia is always watching, always taking notes in that little notebook of hers, and she refuses to let anyone see them. Patricia claims she’s writing a story. Margo claims she’s a harmless little old lady. Neither of them can be relied upon to tell the full truth. Who knows how far they’ll go to keep their secrets in the dark? This read was especially fun for me, because the author has clearly worked in libraries; a bit of research shows that she’s currently a Reference librarian, herself!

Camp Damascus by Chuck Tingle

Also available on Libby as an audiobook.

Rose has been brought up in the shadow of Camp Damascus, America’s highest rated “conversion therapy” camp. She’s never been there herself, but her isolated religious community, the Kingdom of the Pines, sponsors and staffs Camp Damascus. Rose is 20, and she’s happy at home, with a few exceptions. First, her assigned psychologist is obviously lying to her. Second, her parents get upset whenever Rose doesn’t hide her autistic behaviors: self-soothing pattern counting on her fingers, intently researching topics she doesn’t understand. Third, Rose threw up a cloud of black flies at dinner and now there’s a rotting woman following her around. Since no one is willing to give her answers, Rose decides to find out for herself exactly what’s going on at Camp Damascus…

Joyland by Stephen King

Audio on CD

Audio on playaway

Also available on Libby as an eBook and audiobook.

This one’s an “oldie” in book years, and it’s an unusual pick from Stephen King. We all know him as a horror author, and while this book does contain some elements of horror, it certainly isn’t It. This book is about many, many, many things: hard work, friendship, heartbreak, growing up, and those who don’t get the chance to do so. And that’s just the start! It’s the story of a summer spent working at an amusement park. It’s a cold case mystery, where curiosity about several unsolved murders draws our protagonist into danger. It’s a family tragedy about a mother and a sick son, doomed to die before he reaches 20. It’s one of the most sorrowful books I’ve ever read, and one of the most hopeful portrayals of grief. While I have nothing but praise for this book, I’d like to remind you all that it’s still Stephen King: some parts of this story are frightening, and some parts are described in all their elaborate, yucky detail. Consider yourselves warned!


The Counselors by Jessica Goodman
Avid murder mystery readers will enjoy this beachy read, recommended for ages 14 to adults. After a traumatic school year, camp counselor Goldie Easton is excited to reunite with her two best friends at an elite summer camp, but when a local boy is found dead on the grounds, all three must reveal a dark secret to find the murderer. 

The Strangers by Margaret Peterson Haddix
An exciting sci-fi mystery novel for middle-school kids and advanced elementary readers. Chess, Emma, and Finn Greystone are shocked when they learn the similarities between themselves and three kidnapped children. But before they can ask their mom about it, she goes missing, and the kids must investigate the puzzling clues she left behind. 

Secret Passages by Axelle Lenoir
It’s 1985, and a creative, sensitive, and anxious little girl named Axelle is about to start first grade. This humorous, semi-autobiographical graphic novel about childhood is told through the perspective of a jaded adult and includes plenty of cynical humor. Perfect for millennials, but this will be enjoyed by any teen or adult who can look back at childhood antics with a laugh. 


Chapter Books

Every winter, I start delving into the latest middle school books that are nominated for awards. There were many great books this year, but the following three are some of my favorites! - Children's Librarian Kallie

The Labors of Hercules Beal by Gary D. Schmidt
The story of Hercules Beal is at once heartbreaking, hopeful and a little comical. Though he’s named after a mythical hero, he doesn’t feel even a bit strong. He misses his parents, his brother works all the time, and he feels lost. One day, his tough homeroom teacher tells him he must perform the Twelve Labors of Hercules to pass the class. Schmidt creates a warm, funny, and creative atmosphere for Herc Beal to achieve this tough assignment. I cannot overhype the audiobook enough! I definitely encourage readers to check it out!

Read on Hoopla
Listen on Hoopla

Mexikid: A Graphic Memoir by Pedro Martin
Pedro Martín has grown up hearing stories about his legendary crime-fighting, abuelito (grandpa) who was once a part of the Mexican Revolution! But that doesn't mean Pedro is excited at the news that Abuelito is coming to live with their family in California. Pedro already has 8 brothers and sisters, and the house is crowded enough! Still, Pedro piles into the Winnebago with his family for a road trip to Mexico to bring Abuelito home. The graphic novel is full of fun illustrations and homages to 1970s sitcoms and music. Readers will enjoy the unique, colorful illustrations.


Simon Sort of Says by Erin Bow
Simon O’Keefe has gone viral for the worst reason. To escape the spotlight, his parents move him to Grin and Bear It, Nebraska. See, Grin and Bear It bans cell phones and computers so that astrophysicists can scan the skies for signs of alien life. Along the way, readers will meet a crazy peacock, failed rescue pup, and out of control Emus! Simon’s two new friends are on a mission to help the astrophysicists to find what they’re looking for and, as they do, Simon will rebuild the narrative of his life!

Read on Hoopla

Picture Books

This month, I’ve chosen some titles that can help families with little ones get through their nighttime routines :-) Children’s Librarian Lindsay

I’m Terrified of Bath Time by Simon Rich
This picture book turns the potential difficulties of bath time on its head when we learn that the bathtub itself fears bath time. Little ones will laugh when they read the story with you and will perhaps be motivated to behave just a little bit better at bathtime.

It’s Time for Bed by Ceporah Mearns
A little girl does NOT want to go to bed until she completes other tasks like swimming with fish and howling with wolves. This is an entertaining read to ease your little one into bedtime.

Tiptoe Tiger by Jane Clarke
Another picture book about bedtime, this time with a little tiger in the jungle. The text is interactive and would be perfect for reading while snuggling together before bedtime.