The Button War // by Avi
Release Date: June 12, 2018
Genre: Upper MG, Historical (WWI)
My Rating: 4 Stars
**Note: I received a free copy of this title from the people at NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.**
Basic Plot: It’s August 1914 in a small village in Poland. The Great War has begun, but Patryk and his six friends are caught up in their own Button War… to see which boy can find (read: steal) the best button from the uniforms of the various occupying soldiers. Little do they know that this war is going to have deadly consequences.
1) Thank-you, Mr. Avi, for putting “August 1914” before the first chapter. It set the scene right off the bat. I knew exactly what time period I was reading about.
2) I love learning something new. This story takes place in Poland at the outset of the First World War. The inciting incident involves an aeroplane dropping a bomb. Now, I always associate bombs with WWII, not WWI, so I found this an extremely interesting plot point. (And I did some research. Yes, bombing did happen during WWI.)
3) The bickering between the boys. I love how this is portrayed, especially early on in the book. I reminded me of Stand by Me… the Polish version! The sausage-eating Wojtex… Drugi, the one who asks all the questions… Jurek who keeps telling everybody that he’s the descendant of King Boleslaw… and the narrator, Patryk, who’s trying to keep everything balanced.
Next moment, Wojtex said, “My father told me that more Russain soldiers were coming. Maybe Cossacks.”
Jurek said, “Love to see them.”
“Why?” asked Drugi.
Jurek said, “They’re the best fighters in the world.”
Drugi asked, “Who are the Russian going to fight?”
“Germans,” said Wojtex. …
There was a moment of silence. After which Drugi asked, “What’s the war about?”
We were silent. No one knew the answer.
4) The buttons! Maybe because I’ve always had a thing about buttons, I loved the collecting and the descriptions.
5) I love how the button contest echoes what happening with regards to the Great War. The boys are vying to be Button King, just as the nations of Europe were going to war to be king of the world. You have Jurek, the bully who will stop at nothing to be king, dragging the rest of the boys into the Button War, whether they want to or not. And then, really bad things happen.
6) The foreshadowing is just… wow. I didn’t catch all of it, but peeking back at earlier chapters after completing the book, I definitely saw various instances of foreshadowing. Like the the mention of the Cosacks… And the fierce look in Jurek’s eyes after Patryk throws away the first button.
7) The ending is very sad. Although, it’s not necessarily an “unhappy” ending. The last quarter of the book or so, there’s a lot of bloodshed (off screen). Jurek’s claim at the very end is troubling; sad because it’s also so empty. Like, doesn’t he realize what has happened.
WHAT’S NOT COOL…
1) The super short chapters. Argh! I don’t understand why authors choose to write super short chapters.
2) I found the names to be difficult at times. I could not always remember who was who. This might have been partly because of all the Polish names I wasn’t familiar with, but it’s also because there are seven boys. And not all the boys are as important to the story as the others are, so it was sometimes hard to keep track of who was who.
My rating is 4 Stars (out of 5) – I really enjoyed this book, if “enjoyed” can be a word to describe it. The book deals with some very troubling aspects of war. Actually, come to think of it, it has some overtones of Lord of the Flies. Very interesting on the historical side of things and I would recommend this to anybody who wants to read something something a little different about World War I. Definitely this book is meant for a more mature reader.