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The Luck of the Buttons Is a Blue Ribbon Read

April 11, 2011

The Luck of the ButtonsThe Luck of the Buttons by Anne Ylvisaker
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

       The Luck of the Buttons by Anne Ylvisaker is a heartfelt and engaging story featuring heroine Tugs Button. It’s the summer of 1929 and twelve-year-old tomboy Tugs lives in Goodhue, Iowa with her family who have never been known for their good luck, athletic prowess or artistic talents.
       The well-meaning but trouble-prone Tugs single-handedly goes about changing the Button bad luck into good luck. First, she makes friends with Aggie, the most popular girl in town who insists Tugs run the three-legged race with her on the 4th of July. Next, with the encouragement of Miss Lucy the librarian, she writes a patriotic essay for the Independence Day contest. Then, she helps out store owner Mr. Pepper and is entered into a raffle to win a Brownie camera. To Pugs’ amazement, blue ribbons and prizes start to pile up.
       Ylvisaker gives us plenty to love about Tugs and her family. Tugs is just as likely to rescue a cat as she is to give you baking tips: “You might try an extra egg next time. That’s what my mother does, and her cake doesn’t leave as many crumbles,” she tells the mother of her new friend. Tugs’ mother gives her this advice when leaving for a birthday party, “steer clear of hooligans, say thank you. And please. And don’t be the last one to leave.” Certainly lessons we should all learn.
When she’s not writing essays or rescuing cats up trees, she is wondering what the new man about town is cooking up. The stranger in the Panama hat literally walks into the lives of her family and friends to supposedly start a local newspaper. Tugs sniffs at him like three-day-old fish and eventually saves the town from disaster.
Ylvisaker captures this nostalgic time beautifully with her descriptions of making pies for “pie-worthy” events and attending Independence day picnics. She uses words such as rapscallion, patoot and dagnabit that lend authenticity to the dialogue and that make you feel like you’ve been dropped into a time machine.
       The Luck of the Buttons is fast-paced, very funny and smart – an utterly charming read! Although this is technically Youth Fiction for 8 to 12 year olds, I found it a welcome respite from the dreary Oregon rain.

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