Avi. Button War, The: A Tale of the Great War. Fiction. Candlewick, 06/2018. 230pp. $16.99. 978-0-7636-9053-3. OUTSTANDING. GRADES 4-8.
When bombs begin to fall on Patryk’s village in Poland in 1914, Russian soldiers leave as German and Austrian soldiers arrive, kick-starting a contest between Patryk and his friends: the winner will be the boy who can steal the best button from a soldier’s uniform. However, this innocent but reckless game spins out of control and turns dangerous when the boys get caught in the crossfire between the Russians and the Germans and Austrians. Well-crafted and well paced, Avi’s latest middle-grade novel pulls no punches in its sometimes harrowing depictions of the horrors of war, while also touching upon the consequences of peer pressure with the boys putting themselves directly in harm’s way—defying their parents’ wisdom—just for some sense of acceptance and power in difficult times. Pack mentality and toxic masculinity are also touched upon, especially through the character of Patryk’s friend Jurek, a power-hungry and unstable leader who is unable to grasp the fact that war is not a game.
Eric Barbus, San Francisco Public Library