Thursday, November 10, 2011

Review: The Luck of the Buttons

by Anne Ylvisaker
Candlewick Press (April 2011)
Ages 8 and up

It's 1929 in Goodhue, Iowa and twelve-year old Tugs Button is yearning to break free from generations of hapless Button tradition in which winning is a pompous pursuit and badge of shame. Due to the great good fortune of being the exact same height as the town's most popular girl, Aggie Millhouse, Tugs Button is a prime candidate to pair up with Aggie for the Fourth of July three legged race and maybe, just maybe, have a shot at a blue ribbon. The idea of winning something, anything, opens up a world of other possibilities for Tugs, all of which fly in the face of Button family values.

The Luck of the Buttons is an utterly delightful, delicately crafted novel of life in small town America, where Rowdies rule the road and a flim flam man is poised to fleece its residents of their life savings. Ylvisaker resists cliche's (the popular girl is actually kind and helpful and being poor isn't a shame, it's just a way of life) and offers up a subtle, yet lively, spin on shedding limitations and trusting one's instincts.

Ylvisaker shows great restraint by weaving in storylines such as the flim flam man without taking away from the primary focus, which is Tugs internal struggles to rise above the lucklessness of the Buttons. This is a character driven novel that's beautifully blended with its engaging plot, clipping along at a fast pace while still maintaining the slow sway of Goodhue's way of life.

This is one great read.

Source: I borrowed my copy from the library.


Kirby Larson said...

I was given an ARC of this -- I'm moving it up the to read pile thanks to this great review. Loved the cover!

Grier Jewell said...

Great! As I read this book, I kept thinking of you. It's really wonderful how the fact that it's historical fiction is really secondary--the era, with its values and way of life, is more like a supporting character (fully alive and integrated into the story) rather than a story with historicality (if that's a word or if that even makes sense).