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The Luck of the Buttons (The Buttons #1)

3.55 of 5 stars 3.55  ·  rating details  ·  438 ratings  ·  134 reviews
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 - befo
Hardcover, 224 pages
Published April 12th 2011 by Candlewick Press
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Mock Newbery 2011/2012
26th out of 39 books — 51 voters
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Lucky Reads
16th out of 29 books — 3 voters

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Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 1,058)
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I'm actually listening to this audio cd in the car while on lengthy trips with my girls because the box recommends the story for ages 8 and up so I figured it was a "safe, clean" book to listen to with them.
We finished this book today and I must say that the girls really enjoyed it! It was quite predictable from the grown up perspective, but my 7 and 11 yr old truly enjoyed getting in the car just to see what would become of Harvey Moore and Tugs Button. Good, wholesome family read.
There are kids out there that like historical fiction. I know that there are. I've met them. They come into my library and curl their lips in disgust at the covers with the shiny dragons and sparkly motes of dust swirling and whirling. The thing is, they don't know the term "historical fiction" and even if you told them that was the kind of book they preferred they'd look at you like you were attempting to make them eat something green and leafy. All they know is that they like stories about rea ...more
This is a very accessible, quick read. I thought, "Oh, no, not another plucky girl in the Depression Era in the middle of the country," but there were several refreshing differences:
1. Tugs has an intact family, that although poor, trusts and supports her
2. There may be stereotypes at first, but they are disproved ("rich" being stuck up, poor being dumb, etc) In fact, several of the character "turns" are among the best features in the book.
3. I would like all students to ask themselves, "Why sho
Liza Gilbert
If book covers could inspire nightmares, this one would be a serious contender.

I hate to say it, but brevity was the standout quality for me. This novel could easily be read in one or two study halls. The biggest problem is that the audience it is intended for would have no interest in reading this book. IMHO this is the perfect pick for a middle-aged white woman book club.

On top of that, Ylvisaker repeatedly used words that today's young readers (especially those under 11) are not likely to en
Diane Prokop
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-l
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
A girl named Tuggs Button lives in a family of Buttons. This family is the luckless family ever, but Tuggs Button begins to change that path. It all starts at the Fourth of July picnic; Tuggs wins a three legged race with Aggie Mills, an essay competition about "Progress," and a raffle to get a Brownie Camera! After she goes to a family reunion, she sticks up for herself saying that Buttons don't have to be the end of the straw all of the time. Finally, Tuggs has her suspicions of Harvey Moore, ...more
Tugs is 12 in the summer of 1929. Her family is known for its lack of luck. But Tugs luck might be changing- the most popular girl wants to do the 3 legged race with her, she wins a camera, and she seems to be the only one in her town who is interested and capable of solving a mystery. A fun, fast historical fiction book.
Ylvisaker, A. (2011). The luck of the Buttons. Somerville, MA: Candlewick Press.

Intermediate Chapter Book

In this book we learn about the life and times of a girl named Tugs Button, who lives in a small town in Iowa in 1929. Tugs thinks her whole family is unlucky - especially herself. She breaks things (accidentally) in stores, she falls into mud puddles, she certainly never wins anything. Until one summer, when her luck seems to turn around. She wins an essay contest, the three-legged race, and
Set in a small Iowa town in 1929. The Buttons are unremarkable and unlucky, but Tug Buttons resists the family label.
This was a good historical fiction audiobook with a GREAT reader that would be perfect for family listening.
Monica Fastenau
Read the full review on my blog:

The first thing that comes to mind when I think about this book is the word silly. It definitely took me a while to get into the conversational style of the characters. Some of their sentences seemed jumbled and confusing, but after a while it became endearing.

This book is cute, but it is forgettable. I read it a couple of months ago, and I’ve already forgotten most of the details, as well as the solution of the mystery. Wo
Cricket Muse
There are many memorable historical middle reader novels; The Luck of the Buttons almost became part of this group. The story has much going for it: a likable tomboy, a luckless family, a shadowy character, and an assortment of rowdy and nice children adding personality to the various adventures. This 1929 is a year of promise and progress in Goodhue, Iowa. Tugs Goodhue is plucky, yet the plot is a bit predictable. However, young readers might appreciate the simple story of a less complicated ti ...more

Tugs Button is not expected to make anything of her life. She comes from a perfectly ordinary, if not unlucky, family in rural Iowa. It's 1929 and 12 year old Tug is at an in-between stage. She doesn't know where she fits in with her family or with the other girls in her neighborhood. When she makes friends with the wealthier, but also tomboyish, Aggie and a slick stranger comes to town, Tug's life begins to change and just maybe, she can change her luck after all. I liked this book but didn't l
Tugs Button comes from a long line of historically "unlucky" Buttons but when she teams up with a very popular girl, Agggie Millhouse, to win the Independence Day three-legged race, wins first place in the patriotic essay contest, and has her name chosen to win a new Brownie camera all in one day, she vows to continue her lucky ways. It is her new camera that leads her to a crime, occurring right under the noses of the townspeople, and Tugs' lucky-ness continues as she helps the people around he ...more
Tugs Button and her family are anything but lucky. This summer though, things start to change for Tugs in the form of a new friendship, lots of winning, and stumbling upon a plot to steal money from her friends and family. This is the start of new things for Tugs, lucky things.

This is such a fun and quick read! Set around 1929, you really get the small Midwest town feel when reading this book. It is not specifically set around history, but it still has that feel to it. Tugs is such a lovable mai
Nicola Mansfield
Reason for Reading: The time period attracted me.

Set in 1929, small town Iowa, tomboy Tugs Button belongs to the Buttons clan, a family who just naturally expects bad luck and misfortune to come their way, if any luck is to be handed out it won't be handed to any of them because it's rigged, don't ya know. Besides the Buttons enjoy their yearly family reunions where they get together to grumble, complain and go over the good ole' stories of family misfortunes. But Tugs has had enough and has dec
I like Tugs Button. She’s her own person. She’s a lover of words and of action. She’s curious about what is happening around her and while she doesn’t have much, she makes the best of it. Tugs is part of a family that gets by – nothing special or fancy. She moves through her small Iowa town without many expectations. After all is mostly the same day in and day out, year after year.

But change is in the air. First there is the man with the Panama hat, Harvey Moore claiming that Goodhue should hav
As posted on Outside of a Dog:

Plucky, intelligent young girls are hardly a new concept for juvenile literature. We've got our May Amelias, our Anne Shirleys, our Hermione Grangers. So it's hard to write a character like that and make her someone new, someone exciting. This is partially where I felt disappointed with last year's Newbery winner, Moon Over Manifest. Abilene Tucker didn't strike me as someone new or exciting at all. In fact, I felt I'd met characters like her a dozen times over, and
"The Luck of the Buttons," set in 1929 in Iowa, immediately reminded me of the musical, "Music Man." Both stories concern a con man showing up in a small mid-western town, offering the citizens something they can't refuse, and swindling them of their money. Both have happy endings.

I loved everything about "The Luck of the Buttons!" Tugs Buttons, a small-town tomboy, lives simply and in the shadows. Generations of Buttons before her have been unlucky and feel that any sort of showiness is imprope
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:

Danielle Larca
"You're such a Button."

Tugs Button has heard this more times than she can count. Her family is known for being unlucky. They aren't good at sports or art. They aren't talented musicians or exceptional cooks. They certainly never win anything.

But all that changes at the 1929 Fourth of July picnic. For the first time ever, Tugs partners with cool girl, Aggie Millhouse in the three-legged race - AND WINS! Then her essay on "progress" wins first prize in the essay contest! And finally, Tugs's ticke
Kathryn Mueller
Tugs Button is a buck-toothed, overall clad, accident prone child living in the middle of Iowa in 1929. Not only that, but the entire clan of Buttons is about as unlucky as they come. They have to beware when there's pie on the counter because for some cosmic reason, that always means that calamity has already or is about to strike!

Anne Ylvisaker has woven a simple but charming story, but the real selling point of this book is the quirkiness of the Iowan characters and the real struggles that Tu
Barb Middleton
Imagine a bouncy five-year-old boy with a horribly runny nose dropping his books off at the library circulation desk and discovering his nose fits at just the right level to race it across the counter edge. He reminds me of the dwarf, Dopey, except on a sugar high as he deposits a viscous trail of snot down the entire countertop. I thought of this rascal while reading this book especially in the opening scene when hyperactive twelve-year-old Tugs Button wipes her nose on her shirt sleeve and ove ...more
The Luck of the Buttons by Anne Ylvisaker is a story about a twelve year old girl, Tugs Button. Tugs is from a long line of luckless, somewhat unhappy and completely undistinguished family members, who consider the eating of pie to be a sign that something is wrong. Needless to say, no one expects much from the Button family. One day Tugs meets a young charismatic gentleman, Harvey Moore, who plans to start a newspaper to bring progress to the small town. As the town of Goodhue is swept up in th ...more
This is a quiet but quirky book, about 4th grade reading level, but some of the narrative will go over the heads of some 4th grade readers because some of the concepts are difficult.

Set in a small Iowa town in 1929, the main character, Tugs Button, was growing up in the shadow of her family's reputation for lucklessness. Some of it was their own fault but done with good intentions as when Tugs was told she shouldn't raise her hand and speak up in class, even when she knew the answer. Some was t
“You’re such a Button.” Everyone in Goodhue, Iowa understands that statement. It means Buttons weren’t singers or dancers, athletes, good students, or exemplary citizens. It means if Buttons didn’t have bad luck, they wouldn’t have any luck at all. But, it is summer, 1929 and Tugs Esther Button’s luck is about to change. Tugs is a spirited 12 year old tomboy who befriends pretty and popular Aggie Millhouse. This unlikely friendship is just the beginning of a memorable summer, where Tugs’ luck an ...more
I liked this one, a lot. That Tugs, she's something else. Entirely likable from page 1 to page...whatever...last. And that, I have discovered, is a key requirement for me if I'm going to be able to say I enjoyed a book: I must like the protagonist. Wimpy Kid books might be funny, but darn it, I just hate that kid (which is okay, to hate him, since he's fictional and all) and therefore, I am not a fan of that series. And now I think I'm rambling.

Tugs Esther Button comes from one, big, unlucky fam
The beginning of this book reminded me of the feeling of the Music Man (a favorite musical of mine). Harvey Moore arrives in a small town in Iowa bringing the promise of a town newspaper, the Goodhue Progress.
"Yes, a fellow can come to this town with an idea for progress. An idea that will give your dear children a chance at living in a town of substance. A wild idea? Maybe. A bold idea? Probably. An idea that citizens of other towns have not been brave enough to believe in? Absolutely.
Did the
I have two words for this book. “Ridicously Charming”. I listened to it on audio in my car and kept trying to find excuses to drive places just so I can listen to it some more. Tugs Button is a fiesty female character, definitely an underdog. I think librarians, teachers and even parents should pick this up/recommend this to children who feel misunderstood, unheard, unappreciated or generally unlucky. They’ll see part of themselves in Tugs Button. Tugs is an underdog you will want to root for. I ...more
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“There was pie on the table when Tugs returned. Pie in the Button family meant trouble.” 3 likes
“Tugs used to think that everyone's name was in the dictionary, and when she had realized it was only hers, both Tugs and Button, she felt suddenly fond and possessive of it, as if this book were put here for her guidance alone.” 2 likes
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