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Thursday, June 30, 2011

The Luck of the Buttons, written by Anne Ylvisaker. Candlewick, Random House. 2011. $18.00 ages 10 and up

"They made an awkward pair, Ned and Tugs, he short, she tall, and being from nearly the same gene pool, neither one was blessed with coordination. She'd try to take shorter strides, he'd try to take longer strides, and they usually ended up in a lump about five feet from the startline. Buttons were not, as a rule, graceful."

Oh, I love Tugs Button! I love her spirit, her independence, her interest in the world and the people in it. She is a wonderfully spunky young girl, who often finds herself in unexpected  trouble. It's summertime in 1929 and Tugs' life in Goodhue, Iowa is about to get fuller and more complicated. 

She means well but doesn't have a reputation for always doing the right thing. The Buttons don't live a charmed life. But, she manages to change the bad luck that seems to follow all family members into some semblance of 'good'. She makes friends with Aggie, daughter of the rich and powerful Millhouse family. They run the three-legged race together at the Fourth of July picnic, and win. She is encouraged by her local librarian, Miss Lucy, to enter an essay writing contest and wins it! For helping Mr. Pepper with a new shipment of cameras, she enters a raffle and wins a Brownie camera. No one in the family has ever had such good luck, and  it is not encouraged:

"What if there was a chance of winning? What if she did run with Aggie? She felt a wave of guilt for even thinking it. Buttons considered victory, even  for one's affiliated party in national politics, showing off."
Her life is filled with many distractions, not the least of which is the new man in town who is drumming up monetary support to start a local newsapaper. Tugs is leery of him, and wonders what he is really doing in town. Something is not right. That feeling leads to some pretty inspired detective work, and the chance to stop the con man before he hurts many in her small community. He has done so elsewhere.

This very accomplished author drops us into a totally different time and place, creating characters who will live long in our memories (including a cat named Leopold who gets into his fair share of mischief and mayhem) and a fast-paced, utterly charming tale to boot.

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