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The Button War: A Tale of the Great War by…
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The Button War: A Tale of the Great War

by Avi

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Avi does not spare the reader from the callousness of violence and death at the beginning of World War I. The lives of the Polish villagers mean nothing to German and Russian solders involved in the conflict. Avi masterfully weaves the WWI and the war among friends together in sometimes brutal ways. While it is appropriate for young adult readers, parents may have concerns about some of the more violent events. The relationship between Patryk and Jurek also provides opportunities to discuss about how we are influenced in positive and negative ways by other people and what we can do to avoid being bullied into making decisions. ( )
  SWONclear | Oct 9, 2018 |
This review was written for LibraryThing Early Reviewers.
World War Two has marched and bombed its way into twelve-year-old Patryk’s tiny Polish village. The German army is fighting for control of the Russian held territory and the lives of the hardworking villagers are turned upside down. As with war anywhere and in any period, innocent civilians pay a dear price, and like most, their lives will never be the same again.

When not in school, Patryk, Jurek, and their friends spend their days hanging out by the water pump, exploring the forest, and challenging each other to dares. Jurek’s dares are becoming increasingly more and more dangerous and his latest scheme is heading in a direction that Patryk knows isn’t going to end well for any of them. Jurek has declared that the newest competition is to steal military buttons from soldier’s uniforms and the one that steals the best button will be declared the Button King. With the desire to win driving the group, the competition is fierce between the boys and rapidly escalates from stealing buttons from freshly-washed uniforms drying outdoors to looting the bodies of dead soldiers laying scattered and unclaimed near their village. Patryk’s concerns deepen as Jurek becomes increasingly more obsessed with the competition, knowing he shouldn't participate, yet can't pull himself away.

Avi makes us feel like one of the group; trailing alongside Patryk and whispering in his ear “No, don’t do it - just go home!!” Peer pressure, bullying and the desire to protect friends and family are prominent themes that are skillfully interwoven throughout the story. The thoughts and actions of the boys are comparable to twelve-year-old boys anywhere and during any period of time, making the story one that older middle-grade readers are sure to relate to. As with any story about war, some chapters contain more disturbing violence and tragedy than others, however, The Button War is a well-written, coming-of-age story that paints a descriptive picture of a dark moment in our collective history. ( )
  RavenShoe | Aug 7, 2018 |
This review was written for LibraryThing Early Reviewers.
I received The Button War from LibraryThing Early Reviewers in exchange for a review.

The Button War helps its audience understand the tensions between countries at war, the challenges of small communities in times of war, and the roles of middle grade children who were living in these times. The main character, Patryk, is an 11 year old boy who lives in a small village in Poland during the beginning of WWI. He and his six friends are in charge of themselves throughout the story, and embark on many dangerous quests to obtain the best button from the many military groups that come through their town, thus becoming the Button King. At first, the buttons are found on the ground, or come from clothes or helmets that have been left behind, and as the story goes on, the characters begin to take buttons from more dangerous sources. Jurek, the inventor of the Button War, engages his, at times friends, and at times adversaries, in this contest that leads to danger and death. The plot is thrilling, yet manageable- there is plenty of daring, violence, and death, but each of these moments is presented in a way that is more shocking than gruesome. Avi's description of an airplane from Patryk's point of view would also be quite powerful for students who have never before considered a time before airplanes to experience.
  MsZReadz | Jul 31, 2018 |
This review was written for LibraryThing Early Reviewers.
I generally like historical fiction and while this book was well-written, I did not care for the plot of the story as a general fiction novel. If the premise was to show a potential negative outcome to poor decision making, then this novel was successful, but not a pleasurable afternoon read.

The reader is introduced to a group of boys claiming to be friends, but it is quickly demonstrated by their words/actions that there really is not much actual substance of friendship in their relationships. The self-proclaimed leader is a bully who is rude and creates dares and changes the rules to suit his own selfish ends. The story follows them through a dare to steal the best button from a soldier in order to become the "Button King". The action quickly turns dark as the choices made by the various boys lead to devastating consequences. This book could be beneficial if used for a discussion about bullying, war, peer-pressure, and the consequence of choices. If anything was learned from this book, 11 and 12 year old boys need the involvement of parents and teachers to guide their choices of friends and activities, including the reading this book, which I would not recommend a young person do without guidance and discussion! ( )
  MKCagle | Jul 31, 2018 |
This review was written for LibraryThing Early Reviewers.
When I won Avi's The Button War through the LibraryThing Early Reviewers Program, I was glad. I've enjoyed every Avi book, except for The Man Who Was Poe, which offended me because his characterization of Poe was based upon Griswold's lies, not the real man. Otherwise, it was a good story. So is The Button War. That it took me over a month to finish this short novel was because it was well written.

The Button War takes place in an unnamed remote village in Poland during early World War I -- August 1914. Our hero is Patryk, son of the village wheelwright. He and the boys he hangs out with (Drugi, Jurek, Makary, Raclaw, Ulryk, and Wojtex), are all either eleven or twelve years old. Patryk and Jurek are two of the twelve-year-olds. Raclaw, son of the village lawyer, is the most prosperous. Jurek is the poorest.

At the beginning of the book, Jurek seems to be just a bully who can't handle the fact that he's an orphan who lives with his eighteen-year-old unmarried sister who supports them by being the laundress for Russian soldiers stationed by their village. They live in a one-room, tumbledown shack. Jurek claims to be the descendant of Poland's first king, Boleslaw I, the Brave. Jurek comes up with ideas and dares that the other boys follow. The button war is one of those ideas.

The boy who steals the best button from a soldier will be the button king and wield a cane they found. Patryk knows Jurek would be a cruel king and beat the other boys with the cane. His father told him he must protect the weak, so Patryk is determined to win. I couldn't see this ending well. Then we started getting news of immigrant and refugee children being cruelly torn from their parents [June, 1918]. Even fictional children in peril seemed too much. For weeks I couldn't bring myself to read past chapter 31.

I finally picked the book up again on July 20th and read straight through to the end. Yes, it was that suspenseful. Getting th4e buttons becomes m ore dangerous once the Russian soldiers leave and the German soldiers arrive. Jurek is so determined to win that even when one of the boys is caught at the game and punished, he refuses to let Patryk's clearly superior button make him the winner.

I wished the boys would just tell Jurek where to go, but I've never been a boy. The war reaching the village in earnest isn't enough to stop the game. Patryk is desperate to protect his friends from the budding sociopath. The last scene, knowing what led up to it, is haunting.

The World War I setting is interesting, as is the fact that these are unsophisticated rural kids caught up in something completely outside their experience. There's a lesson about not following a bad leader, not to mention signs to look out for in a seriously disturbed classmate.

It's a very good adventure.

Note: The U.S. used to spell 'airplane' as 'aeroplane' early in the 20th century. I have some of the Honey Bunch series of girls' books that ran from 1923 through 1955. The twelfth book was Honey Bunch: Her First Trip in an Airplane, but it's listed as 'aeroplane' in my older editions.

The dustjacket and title page have pictures of the kinds of buttons the boys get. That's a nice touch. ( )
  JalenV | Jul 20, 2018 |
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Patryk and Jurek are as much friends as rivals in the small Russian-occupied Polish village where they live. When, in August 1914, Patryk finds an old button on the forest floor, Jurek becomes wildly jealous. Not long after, World War I comes to Poland, bringing one invading army after another to the village. Jurek devises an exciting dare among the seven boys in their pack: whoever steals the best military button will be Button King. The boys agree. The contest is on. The competition escalates from stealing uniform buttons on a wash line to looting the bodies of dead soldiers to setting up an ambush. Leading the charge is Jurek, who will do anything to be Button King. It's only Patryk who tries to stop Jurek's increasingly dangerous game before it leads to deadly consequences.… (more)

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