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The Luck of the Buttons

By Anne Ylvisaker

Candlewick, 2011
Pages : 224
Suggested Ages: 8-12
ISBN: 9780763650667

If only there were more characters like Tug Buttons!  She’s a firecracker of a girl, a tomboy who speaks her mind (which is not always a good thing).

It is the summer of 1929, a summer of change for twelve- year-old Tugs.  She’s chosen by Aggie Millhouse for the Independence Day Three-Legged Race, a legendary competition for the children of Goodhue, Iowa.  Initially Tugs is surprised that a Millhouse would befriend a Button, as both families seldom meet.  The Button family is known for their plainness and complete absence of good fortune.  But not so for Tugs Button!  She resists being defined by simplicity; she dreams of something better for herself. 

As readers get to know Tugs, they are welcomed to a world of mid-America in the early twentieth century.  Anne Ylvisaker does a wonderful job in creating this world, a time of radio entertainment, freshly-baked pies and first-place blue ribbons.  The story really develops when a stranger comes to Goodhue, promising fortune and a newspaper that has the whole town abuzz with excitement.  Tugs isn’t convinced this newcomer is the genuine article, and enlists every child in Goodhue to help prove her case.

Don’t let your young reader be put off by the language of the novel.  Initially, it might be challenging.  But soon the rhythm of the story combined with “old-timey” words take over and help create a rich and unique atmosphere.  Simply encourage your reader to keep going - or step in and read along with him or her.  As the novel progresses, the reader will grow more comfortable with the jazzy phrasings and antiquated vocabulary, always pulled along by the young girl who is at the heart of the story as she discovers her own greatness.

Reviewed by : MK.

Themes : CITIES AND TOWNS. FAMILY LIFE. FRIENDSHIP. HISTORICAL FICTION.

If you love this book, then try:

Grimes, Nikki. The Road to Paris. Putnam Juvenile, 2006.


Raskin, Ellen. The Westing Game. Puffin, 2004.


Howell, Troy. The Dragon of Cripple Creek. Amulet Books, 2011.


Vanderpool, Clare. Moon Over Manifest. Delacrote Books for Young Readers, 2010.

Critics have said

"Set in 1929, with a plot, setting, and characters reminiscent of Meredith Wilson's The Music Man, this novel overcomes stock characterization, a predictable plot, and some overused motifs by means of subtle humor, a clever narrative style, and an endearing heroine. "
School Library Journal