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*The Luck of the Buttons* by Anne Ylvisaker - middle grades book review
The Luck of the Buttons
by Anne Ylvisaker
Ages 7-11 240 pages Candlewick April 2011 Hardcover    

Twelve-year-old Tugs Button comes from a rather unfortunate (unlucky) family. They all simply lumber along in this world; nothing ever seems to go very right for them. Most are clumsy, none particularly talented, but they are all happy living in their small town in rural Iowa in 1929.

Tugs (named from an error on a tombstone) is a tomboy who is just establishing her first true friendship. She and her new friend, Aggie, are going to run in the three-legged race on the Fourth of July.

On this day, Tugs’ life changes for the better. She not only wins a writing competition but also wins in a drawing for a Brownie camera. From this point forward, she begins to see herself in a new light – as a person who can really accomplish something. As she learns to use the camera, she also begins to see others through a new lens, of sorts, developing stronger relationships with the people in her community.

One day, a dapper young man comes to town with a wonderful idea: he is going to put their town on the map by starting a local newspaper. All he needs are some investors to get him started so he can buy a printing press. Everyone in town supports this terrific initiative, including the mayor and other leaders in the community.

Tugs is suspicious. She does some research in the town library and discovers an article and a photograph about a man with a different name who is taking advantage of people in other small towns with a similar scheme. In the end, Tugs who proves herself a hero instead of an unlucky Button.

Unique characters shine throughout this story, which is rather slow-paced and somewhat limited in scope. At times the story is filled with humor, and readers will grow to care about Tugs and some of the other peculiar characters in her small town.

Immersing the reader in the rural 1920s setting, Ylvisaker captures a moment in time, when one young person makes a difference despite the better judgment of her elders. This story is perfect for advanced readers in lower grades; it is a fun slice of life wherein a child triumphs over the adults. Recommended for readers age 7-11.
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  Kristine Wildner/2011 for curled up with a good kid's book  

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