Book Talk Tuesday: The Luck of the Buttons by Anne Ylvisaker

The Luck of the Buttons
written by Anne Ylvisaker
Candlewick Press, 2011
ISBN: 978-0-7636-5066-7
Interest Level: Grades 3-6
Reviewed from purchased copy.

BLURB: In Iowa circa 1929, spunky twelve-year-old Tugs vows to turn her family’s luck around, with the help of a Brownie camera and a small-town mystery.  Tugs Esther Button was born to a luckless family. Buttons don’t presume to be singers or dancers. They aren’t athletes or artists, good listeners, or model citizens. The one time a Button ever made the late Goodhue Gazette - before Harvey Moore came along with his talk of launching a new paper - was when Great Grandaddy Ike accidentally set Town Hall ablaze. Tomboy Tugs looks at her hapless family and sees her own reflection looking back until she befriends popular Aggie Millhouse, wins a new camera in the Independence Day raffle, and stumbles into a mystery only she can solve. Suddenly this is a summer of change - and by its end, being a Button may just turn out to be what one clumsy, funny, spirited, and very observant young heroine decides to make of it.

Tugs makes for a delightful heroine.  Not only is feisty and impulsive, but she is also observant and well-intentioned. Tugs is a character well worth rooting for as she tries to convince her family that one's luck can be altered with effort rather than submitted to reluctantly.  Other characters are also easy to relate to.  The one I related to the best was, unsurprisingly, Miss Lucy, the librarian, who sees the potential in Tugs, rather than the clumsy tom-boy.

The plot starts off with a bang:
Tugs Button darted past Zip's Hardware, stumbled over the lunch specials sign at Al and Irene's Luncheonette, and pushed through the door of Ward's Ben Franklin as if the devil himself were chasing her.
Tugs deals with the sorts of things you would expect in a small town of the 1920s, friends, family, expectations, and luck.  Can Tugs change the so-called Button Luck? Of course she can, but not without the help of an encouraging librarian, a new friend, and the Thompson Twins (my favorite characters outside of Tugs herself).  When Tugs realizes that the town is being conned out of their hard-earned money, she realizes she must do something, Button luck or not.  The Luck of the Buttons is a delightful tale of family, friends, and determination. 

One of the things that makes a book stand out for me is the strength of the setting.  Real or imaginary the setting must be believable with just the right amount of detail.  Enough detail that the place can be visualized, while still leaving plenty of room for the reader to make the place his/her own.  Ylvisaker does this very well.  She integrates her descriptions so well into the story that I didn't really pay attention to how well she did it.  Yet, I finished the book feeling that I knew well the small town in Iowa in which the story takes place.

  Overall, I think this is a book well worth reading and discussing, simply an enjoyable story however one looks at it. Highly recommended.


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