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Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Button Down, written by Anne Ylvisaker. Candlewick Press, Random House. 2012. $19.99 ages 8 and up

"You're the quarterback. It's up to you to check whether they see Ralph or not. If they do, you pretend to give him the ball, then throw it to an end instead. That's the fellow who has been lined up on the end of the row. He should be one of your fastest players and a good catch. He'll run around Burton's players and look for you to throw him the ball, because you told him ahead of time to do it."

I love this Button family. If luck wasn't bad, they wouldn't have any. But, they stay strong and love each other. Thisbook focuses on Ned and his love of football. He is a huge fan of Lester Ward, a local boy who is off to play for the University of Iowa. All Ned can think about is getting to Iowa City to see him play!

Before he goes, Lester tosses his old football into a crowd of eager fans and Ned catches it. What a coup for a Button boy who has no money for buying a real football. Before he has a chance to savor the moment, Burton Ward (Lester's younger brother and the town bully) snatches it away from Ned and uses it to play after school ball with his crowd. That leaves Ned and his friends to play with a newspaper football, weighted down with a rock in the center to give it some heft.

Ned loves his Granddaddy Ike, despite his curmudgeonly ways and his daily demand for another chapter of The Wizard of Oz. When Ned explains the football dilemma, Granddaddy offers to teach his young grandson strategy, a  sure way to get the upper hand on Burton and his gang. Ned is not sure; but Ike convinces him to give it a try and then teaches even more plays to Ned's group of footballers. He teaches them to run against the other guys, and how to use their smarts rather than their size to lead them to victory.

Granddaddy Ike is not healthy and when he realizes that his heart is giving out and his days are numbered, he wants his grandson to see a game in Iowa City. Times are tough, there is little money for frills at the beginning of the dire days of the Depression. He ensures that Ned will get a chance to live his dream. His love for Ned shines through every scene that they share. In the end, he manages a surprise that imbues Ned with all the confidence and joy his grandfather imagined for him.

Wonderful storytelling, and a most memorable and fun-loving family will capture attention for this second story about the Buttons. It is a companion to The Luck of the Buttons, and is a welcome chance to visit with them again.

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