Ned Button hasn't made a catch in his life, but that doesn't stop him from dreaming. When Lester Ward goes off to become Goodhue's first Iowa Hawkey, Ned has a chance to win Lester's own football and attend a game at the newly built Iowa Stadium, but not if Lester's younger brother, bully Burton Ward, has can get in his way.
Like my other novels, many of the characters and scenes were inspired by images. While writing The Luck of the Buttons, I kept a postcard of this Grant Wood painting called Plaid Sweater on my wall as Ned. Ned was scruffier than this, and did not have a genuine football, but this is how Ned imagines himself. Read about the actual boy in the painting here.
Football Then and Now
I discovered that Kinnick Stadium, formerly known as Iowa Stadium, the home of the University of Iowa Hawkeye football team, was built in 1929, the fall after The Luck of the Buttons takes place. That fact set my imagination in motion for another Button tale, this time Ned's story. Researching football in the 1920s in general and in Iowa specifically was a lot of fun. Here are just a few of the photos I found:
A Birthday Bash!
Fourth graders in Salinas, California held a big party for Ned on Button Down's release day. Check out the fun!
From Kirkus Reviews:
Ylvisaker (The Luck of the Buttons, 2011) returns to the lovably unlucky Button family, this time with a gentle story about 11-year-old Ned and his love of football.
When local legend-in-the-making Lester Ward goes off to play football for the University of Iowa, he tosses his old football into an eager pack of boys, and surprise of surprises, it is caught by scrawny Ned Button. But when Lester’s younger brother Burton steals the ball away, Ned and his friends are ostracized and reduced to playing with a newspaper-and-twine football on the sidelines. That is, until Granddaddy Ike gets involved. He convinces the group of ragtag youth that football is more about strategy than size, teaching them plays to run against the bigger, tougher boys. And despite a failing heart, Granddaddy arranges to make one of Ned’s dreams—attending a game at the University of Iowa—come true. The precise historical setting—tiny Goodhue, Iowa, in 1929—is not central to this story, though it's carefully drawn. It could happen anyplace where bullies do nothing worse than steal footballs and a grandfather’s advice and love are enough to make a kid feel like he can take on the world.
Short chapters, simple yet meticulous language, a wholesome feel and the universal story of a boy with a dream combine to give this one widespread appeal. (Historical fiction. 8-11)