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Monday, May 23, 2011

Middle Grade Historical Ultimately Forgettable, But Fun Nonetheless

(Image from Indiebound)

As a member of the infamous Button clan, 12-year-old Tugs knows she's destined to live out the same kind of luckless existence experienced by all her relations. After all, Buttons don't win things, they don't accumulate wealth or titles, heck, they don't even dream of traveling beyond rural Iowa. What chance does Tugs have of being any different? Some, apparently. At least that's what she thinks when she wins two competitions in a row - a feat unheard of for a Button. With the scent of possibility in the air, Tugs reexamines everything around her, wondering for the first time who she really is. Is she "just a Button" like everyone says, or something more?

Buttons aren't, as a general rule, solvers of mysteries. But when Tugs meets Harvey Moore, a dapper entrepreneur from Chicago, she knows there's more to him than he's sharing with the unsuspecting residents of Goodhue. His plan to bring a newspaper to the small town seems fishy. Especially since it involves Goodhue residents investing heavily in the project. Tugs can't prove anything - Buttons aren't detectives, for heaven's sake - but that doesn't stop her from trying to outwit the mysterious Mr. Moore. Armed with her new Brownie camera, she's determined to do a little investigative journalism of her own. It's not a very Button-like pursuit, but then, Tugs isn't an ordinary Button. Not anymore.

By saving her town from a slick con artist, Tugs aims to prove she's more than a stereotype, more than just a hapless Button. But are her assumptions about Harvey Moore correct? Or will her investigation turn into the kind of flop for which her family is famous?

The Luck of the Buttons, a middle grade novel by Anne Ylvisaker, brings the 1920s to life in a fun romp of a story. The period detail, plus the engaging main character, keep the book lively, despite a rather generic plotline. Tugs' voice isn't quite strong enough to make the story really stand out, but the book is a quick, entertaining read, even if it is ultimately forgettable.

(Readalikes: Reminded me a little of The Danger Box by Blue Balliet)

Grade: C

If this were a movie, it would be rated: PG

To the FTC, with love: I received an ARC of The Luck of the Buttons from the generous folks at Candlewick Press. Thank you!


  1. Hi Susan, thanks for stopping by my blog. I'm happy to meet you. What a great review. I'm not much of a middle school book reader (my kid's are well past the age) but I fell in love with the cover of this book. I may just have to give it a try.

    I glad to get to know you. You have an absolutely beautiful family. And while yes, we get some wonderful San Diego weather, I'm not all the close to the ocean so we get some yucky hot day. Just not Arizona days-lucky us.

  2. Sounds like a cute book. The Buttons sound like they're Hobbits. Is Tug's real name Bilbo? That's what came to mind when I was reading your post. =D


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