Cover image for The button war : a tale of the Great War / Avi.
The button war : a tale of the Great War / Avi.
First edition.
Publication Information:
Somerville, Massachusetts. Candlewick Press, 2018.

Physical Description:
229 pages ; 21 cm


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AVI Book Junior Collection
AVI Book Junior Collection

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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.

Author Notes

Avi was born in 1937, in the city of New York and raised in Brooklyn. He began his writing career as a playwright, and didn't start writing childrens books until he had kids of his own.

(Bowker Author Biography)

Reviews 2

Publisher's Weekly Review

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. (June) © Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.

Horn Book Review

On the cusp of World War I, twelve-year-old Patryk lives in an isolated Polish village at the edge of a dense forest. Townspeople speak of a far world where events occur that they dont understand, and explain scientific advancements, such as airplanes or cannons, with an almost folkloric naivet. The occupying Russian soldiers are a constant presence; adults work; children help their parents, play, and attend school. That is, until a mechanical bird drops an explosive on the schoolhouse, destroying it and killing a student and the teacher. The Russians leave, only to be replaced by the Germans; residents see little change in their daily lives. What does intensify is a game among seven boys: a contest to see who can steal the best button from the military uniforms of the changing cast of invaders, with the winner becoming king of the forest. Led by insecure, power-hungry, and cruel Jurek, the group becomes ever more competitive and increasingly noticed by the soldiers. Patryk doesnt challenge Jureks actions, believing he can beat him in the contest and become a benevolent leader. Avis short, staccato sentences read eerily like troops crossing the page, building dread with every chapter, leading inexorably to tragedy. Readers are left with the consequences of one boy refusing to speak up and thus allowing an unstable leader to run amok. betty carter (c) Copyright 2018. The Horn Book, Inc., a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.