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The Button War
Cover of The Button War
The Button War
A Tale of the Great War
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Renowned, award-winning author Avi pens a stark, unflinching tale of ordinary boys living in wartime as tensions — and desperations — mount among them.Twelve-year-old Patryk knows little of...
Renowned, award-winning author Avi pens a stark, unflinching tale of ordinary boys living in wartime as tensions — and desperations — mount among them.Twelve-year-old Patryk knows little of...
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  • Renowned, award-winning author Avi pens a stark, unflinching tale of ordinary boys living in wartime as tensions — and desperations — mount among them.

    Twelve-year-old Patryk knows little of the world beyond his tiny Polish village; the Russians have occupied the land for as long as anyone can remember, but otherwise life is unremarkable. Patryk and his friends entertain themselves by coming up with dares — some more harmful than others — until the Germans drop a bomb on the schoolhouse and the Great War comes crashing in. As control of the village falls from one nation to another, Jurek, the ringleader of these friends, devises the best dare yet: whichever boy steals the finest military button will be king. But as sneaking buttons from uniforms hanging to dry progresses to looting the bodies of dead soldiers — and as Jurek's obsession with being king escalates — Patryk begins to wonder whether their "button war" is still just a game. When devastation reaches their doorstep, the lines between the button war and the real war blur, especially for the increasingly callous Jurek. Master of historical fiction Avi delivers a fierce account of the boys of one war-torn village who are determined to prove themselves with a simple dare that spins disastrously out of control.

About the Author-

  • Avi is part of a family of writers extending back into the nineteenth century. Born in 1937 and raised in New York City, Avi was educated in local schools before going to the Midwest and then back to NYC to complete his education. He started out as a playwright while working for many years as a librarian. He began writing books for young people when the first of his kids came along.
    His first book was published in 1970. Since then he has published more than seventy books and won many awards, including the Newbery Medal, two Newbery Honors, two Boston Globe–Horn Book Awards, a Scott O'Dell Award for Historical Fiction, and many children's choice awards. Avi frequently travels to schools around the country to talk to his readers.
    Among his most popular books are Crispin: The Cross of Lead, The True Confessions of Charlotte Doyle, Nothing But the Truth, the Poppy books, Midnight Magic, and The Fighting Ground. His other books with Candlewick Press include What Do Fish Have to Do with Anything? and The Most Important Thing: Stories About Sons, Fathers, and Grandfathers. Avi lives in Clark, Colorado, with his wife.

Reviews-

  • Publisher's Weekly

    Starred review from April 9, 2018
    Darker than the Newbery Medalist’s usual fare, this powerfully evocative WWI novel set in Poland parallels a child’s game with the war raging in the not-so-distant background. After the Germans bomb the schoolhouse and the long-residing Russian soldiers prepare to leave the area, Patryk’s small, isolated village is suddenly a whirlwind of activity. Inspired by the frequent comings and goings of military men, Jurek, the cruel, conniving leader of Patryk’s group of classmates, declares a daring challenge: whoever procures the best button from a soldier’s uniform gets to be king. Patryk is determined to beat Jurek at his own game, but he is no match for Jurek’s determination to win at all costs, even as the game turns deadly. Told from Patryk’s point of view, the novel captures the ways that war can
    forever alter a child’s sense of order, morality, and security in the world. Strongly visual scenes, including the smoky forest after battle, the soldiers marching in perfect formation, and a chilling final image of Jurek, will long resonate in readers’ minds. Ages 10–14. Agent: Gail Hochman, Brandt & Hochman.

  • School Library Journal

    May 1, 2018

    Gr 5-8-Avi's intense and cautionary novel is a psychological thriller set in a hardscrabble Polish village during World War I. Patryk, the 12-year-old narrator, is one of a group of boys who meet nightly at the village water pump to share news and plan adventures, most of which are harmless dares. But on the night the Germans drop a bomb on the local schoolhouse, their lives are changed forever. A troubled boy named Jurek, whose parents died years earlier and who lives with his older sister, challenges his friends to steal the shiniest and most intricately designed military button. The winner, according to Jurek, will be the king. The king of what is unimportant to Jurek, a boy anxious to have control over something in his life. Patryk recognizes the danger of Jurek winning; he has seen glimpses of Jurek's cold heart and knows the danger he poses. But when the contest has tragic consequences, Patryk is torn between his loyalty to his friends and his conscience. One by one, the group of boys, described by Patryk as a "flock of wild goats," pays a price for their willingness to follow the rules of Jurek's reckless game. The culminating scene in a forest blurs the lines between the "button war" and the real war raging around them. VERDICT Avi has written a compelling and tautly constructed book that is a portal to grappling with the complexity of the human instinct to compete. Highly recommended.-Shelley Sommer, Inly School, Scituate, MA

    Copyright 2018 School Library Journal, LLC Used with permission.

  • Kirkus

    April 15, 2018
    When World War I descends upon a tiny Polish village, seven boys launch their own deadly battle for the right to be crowned king of the land.While playing in the woods, 12-year-old narrator Patryk finds a button, but his friend Jurek claims that it belongs to him. The rusty button becomes the inspiration for Jurek's latest scheme. Whoever can obtain the best button can claim sovereignty over the village and rule over the others. Despite their apprehension at Jurek's fervency, they all agree to the terms. As the bombs fall and the troops arrive, the eponymous conflict begins. But Patryk soon finds that Jurek is willing to do whatever it takes to claim the prize. Stealing, espionage, and murder are all fair in war. While the message is clear--there are no winners in war--the story's lack of true heroism leaves readers with little hope for a better world. Fans of The Lord of the Flies and readers ready to plumb ambiguity will respond to the dark themes. Diversity is limited to nationality and class. German, Russian, Austrian, and British soldiers flood the town, and the boys, while all Polish, differ in standing. Jurek, an orphan, is one of the poorest in town, while the other boys are sons of artisans, teachers, and local politicians.Bleakly demonstrates that war, no matter its scale, is devastating. (Historical fiction. 10-13)

    COPYRIGHT(2018) Kirkus Reviews, ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.

  • Booklist

    April 15, 2018
    Grades 4-6 There are seven of them, Patryk reports: himself and six friends, all 11 or 12 years old; they aren't a gang, he continues, but more like a flock of wild goats. They live in a small Polish village in the year 1914. Jurek is their de facto leader, boasting (falsely) that he is a descendant of Boleslaw the Brave, the ancient king of Poland. The boys' lives change dramatically when an airplane appears and bombs their school, evidencing that war has come to the village. The occupying Russians flee in the face of a German advance. Meanwhile, another sort of war has come?a button war. For at Jurek's instigation, the boys agree to steal buttons from the soldiers; the one with the best button will become king. But it's an increasingly dangerous game as, one by one, the boys are killed. Who will survive to become king? The award-winning Avi has turned in another solid performance, bringing history alive with a clever plot, a powerful, anti-war theme, and characters as memorable as his story.(Reprinted with permission of Booklist, copyright 2018, American Library Association.)

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