THE BUTTON WAR

A Tale of The Great War

Avi

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.

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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.

Renowned, award-winning author Avi pens a stark, unflinching tale of ordinary boys living in wartime as tensions — and desperations — mount among them.
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  • Candlewick Press
  • Hardcover
  • June 2018
  • 240 Pages
  • 0763690538

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About Avi

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.

Author Website

Praise

Junior Library Guild Selection

“Reminiscent of Slaughterhouse-Five and Lord of the Flies, Avi’s The Button War is an important and honest book that crowns no heroes. Instead, it shines a light on how easily we believe what we want to believe, confusing dictators for leaders and ignoring our own best selves in the process. If children are to understand the world’s problems, they need to face them—and their own motives—with clear eyes and open minds. The Button War will help them do that. But it is a cautionary tale that will surely provoke introspection in readers of all ages and help us see how to evolve beyond our primitive thirst for power and glory.”Lauren E. Wolk, author of Wolf Hollow, a Newbery Honor Book, and Beyond The Bright Sea

“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.”—Publishers Weekly, Starred Review