Indie Next Selection


It'll stick in your brain long after you've read it, this one, and you'll be glad that it's in there. -Fuse #8 blog

Hear a sample here.


Button Down

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. -Kirkus

Details and a sample chapter here


The Curse of the Buttons

Ike Button, 11 and an endearing combination of credulous and cranky, is a high-energy wannabe hero who is constantly getting knocked down. And that's what makes him such fun. ... The characters charm, and the material is enhanced by the author's well-realized rendition of time and place. -Kirkus

Details here.


Winner of the Midwest Booksellers Choice Award

A boy, his dog, a raft, a river, the falls...


Booklist Top Ten Youth First Novel

Can writing a letter mend a heart, unite a family, help a girl grow up?

Teachers and Book Groups


If I had to answer in one word the question

Where do ideas come from?

I'd say 


It's all about the wondering

read more


Ylvisaker = ILL vi soccer

News and Guest Blogs


Poems and Sketches

Friday May 3 / 5-9 pm 

CSUMB Salinas Center for Art and Culture 

1 Main Street, Salinas, California

exhibit runs through August


Ike's hometown newspaper in 1861 was the Keokuk Daily Gate City, so it's fun to have that same paper featuring an article about The Curse of the Buttons.


For their quirky celebrations feature, celebrates National Button Day with an interview about The Curse of the Buttons.


How setting inspires story, a Curse of the Buttons guest post on the blog of marvelous Elizabeth Dulemba. 


Thanks to the Monterey County Weekly for this feature article, including an excerpt from Button Down. 


I'm honored to be November's Star Author for Christchurch New Zealand Library's Kids Blog. Find writing tricks and treats, ideas for using pictures as story starters, and small collections any writer can start. Tiny Collections and Growing a Story: The art of doing nothing are also posted here on my website. 


Just Launched is the Children's Literature Network's spot to read the behind the scenes scoop on newly released books. Here's my contribution about Button Down


Marvelous Middle Grade Monday's Barbara Watson and I chat about the writing process in a post she calls Buttoning Down


In the Children's Literature Network's Bookscope, I look back at how Little Klein came about. I've made some lucky mistakes in my day, and this is the story of one of them. 


Novel and Nouveau is Barbara Watson's excellent blog about writing and reading middle grade lit. She generously reviewed The Luck of the Buttons recently, and asked me to write a guest post about process as well. 


Bruce Black, author of Writing Yoga, interviewed me about process on his wonderful blog wordswimmer. Thanks, Bruce!


To celebrate The Luck of the Buttons release, there was a pie party on Amy Alessio's excellent Vintage Cookbooks and Crafts blog! Read and bake here: Memory PieIt's All About the CrustPie Worthy, and Launch Day Pie. Then try Amy's excellent pie craft


Children's Literature Network interviewer Tom Owens asks me, What's right with children's literature today? Libraries, that's what!

Find books at:



  • Button Down
    Button Down
    by Anne Ylvisaker
  • The Luck of the Buttons
    The Luck of the Buttons
    by Anne Ylvisaker
  • Little Klein
    Little Klein
    by Anne Ylvisaker
  • Dear Papa
    Dear Papa
    by Anne Ylvisaker
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Entries in Button Down (6)


Just Arrived!

At my house, the harmony of a doorbell ding, three sharp raps on the door, running footfalls, and the deep rumble of a heavy truck, herald the arrival of a package. That glorious symphony played just now, and here's what I found on the front porch:


Button Down, in paperback, including a sneak peek at the final Button book, The Curse of the Buttons, set for 2014 release! 

Thank you, Candlewick Press, and distributor Random House!


I've been tagged...

There's a global blog tour galloping around the web. The Next Big Thing is a virtual game of blog tag in which authors and illustrators are sharing their latest or forthcoming work by answering the same ten questions. I've been tagged by these amazing authors who have already played:

Siobhan Fallon

and Lauren Stringer

Check out their blogs and new books, then keep reading for my interview and the authors I'm tagging next. 

1. What is the title of your latest book?

2. Where did the idea come from for the book? I found a postcard of the Grant Wood painting Plaid Sweater as I started writing The Luck of the Buttons, the first Button book. The boy in that painting was a story begging to be told. He became a model for the character of Ned. I thought of him as the boy Ned imagined himself to be, not who he actually was, football and all. After Ned was done playing a supporting role to Tugs in The Luck of the Buttons, I was eager to put him on the field and see if he could find the hero in himself.

3. What genre does your book fall under? Button Down is middle grade fiction, which means primarily readers between the ages of 8 and 12. 

4. What actors would you choose to play the part of your characters in a movie rendition? Absolutely Nolan Gould for Ned. He plays Luke Dunphee on Modern Family. I love his comic timing. I’d put a bushy mustache on Dustin Hoffman for Granddaddy Ike and cast Robert Duvall as Granddaddy’s best friend Mr. Jackson. 

5. What is the one-sentence synopsis of your book? Ned, of the comically unlucky Button family, hasn't caught a thing in his life until he faces bully Burton Ward in a challenge to catch their town hero's football.

6. Who published your book? The marvelous Candlewick Press

7. How long did it take you to write the first draft of the manuscript? It took about nine months to form a complete draft from beginning to end, though in my files, that was draft version 38. 

8. What other books would you compare this story to within your genre? Richard Peck’s novels A Long Way From Chicago and A Year Down Yonder are humorous intergenerational stories set in a small midwestern town during the 1930s. 

9. Who or what inspired you to write this book? One of the main themes of Button Down is the relationship between Ned and Granddaddy Ike. My grandparents lived nearby when I was growing up and were very involved in our lives. Writing this book allowed me to explore all the ways in which they influenced my childhood self. 

10. What else about the book might pique the reader's interest? Football! While I'd played pick up football as a kid, and lots of a little hand-held electronic football game of my brother's, it wasn't until I wrote this book that I really took the time to understand the strategy behind the game. It's a lot more than a simple knock-em-down sport and I had a great time writing the football scenes.


Michelle Edwards will be posting tomorrow, February 14. 

A little boy frets that the spare room where his baby sister or brother will sleep will never be emptied of things his mother has collected from neighbors for years, but she uses those things to sew and knit everything from diapers to Hanukkah gifts.

Rebecca Janni will post February 20. 

Nellie Sue is taking her cowgirl flair to the county fair! There are rides and contests and a bicycle rodeo, too. Nellie Sue wants to win that blue ribbon. But can she do it while still being "fair at the fair"?

Thanks for joining this reading rodeo! 



The Latest Button News

More good news for Tugs! The Luck of the Buttons has been named to the 2013 California Collection and is a nominee for the 2014 Grand Canyon Reader Award. Go, Tugs, go!

Some nice notice for Ned as well. The Button Down audio book, narrated by the delightful Sanjiv Jhaveri got a lovely review in the November issue of AudioFile. Here's an excerpt:

Jhaveri’s Ned is doggedly determined to right injustice; his friends, predictably youthful. The voice of Jhaveri’s grandfather has a raspy, drawn-out sound that manages to pack just enough oomph when a vital point is needed.

Thank you for bringing Ned and the gang to life, Mr. Jhaveri! 


Growing a story: The art of doing nothing

How much time do you spend doing nothing? Nothing as in being by yourself without the TV on, without your phone or computer or even a book. If you want to write, learning to do nothing is an important skill to develop. 

In her book If You Want to Write, Author Brenda Ueland calls this “moodling” time. Moodling is letting your mind wander and explore without distraction, allowing it to work out problems and find ideas. 

I was moodling one day a few years ago in my house in Iowa. There was a picture on the wall of my great-grandparents on a rickety porch with chickens running around in the yard. I looked at that picture and let my mind wander for a long while. 

I let one thought lead to another and then another, from that photo to a tombstone in a prairie cemetery with the name I’d misread as “Tugs Button,” to my grandmother and her long gangly arms and something her father had said to her once about not getting a swell head. 

The thoughts piled one on top of another until an idea sprouted. I took that idea for a walk in the woods and let it grow a little taller. I sat again in front of the picture until the idea bloomed, then I picked up a pen and started scrawling loose sentences. 

All the time that may have looked to an observer like I was being unproductive, I was actually growing a story that turned into three books about the comically unlucky Button family: The Luck of the Buttons, Button Down, and a third that I’m writing and moodling over now. 

Do you want to write? Put down your pen, turn off the TV and radio and computer and phone. It’s time to do nothing! 


Tiny Collections

I'm on a virtual trip to New Zealand this month as Christchurch Library's Star Author. What fun to connect with readers and writers on another Pacific shore. This week's topic is tiny collections: things writers anywhere, with any amount of space, can collect. Find links to the other entries on this page's Guest Blogs sidebar. 

I am a collector of small things. One of the great things about being a writer is that even a hobby like collecting can be part of the job. Do you like to write? Here are a three collections you could start for yourself.

I’ve been collecting postcards and photographs since my great aunt started sending me art postcards before I could read or write. Hundreds of postcards and photographs fit nicely in a shoebox. Read my last post to discover how collecting images inspires my writing

In elementary school I started collecting names. The smallest notebook has space for dozens of names. Characters like LeRoy Pence (Dear Papa), Harold Sylvester George Klein (Little Klein), and Verlon Leek (Button Down) were inspired by names I collected as far back as 3rd grade. Whenever you hear a name that you like the sound of, or is interesting to you, write it down.

And my favorite tiny collection? Words. I keep my words on small slips of paper in an ordinary jar. Sometimes a word just strikes my fancy and I’ll write it down: labyrinth. If I’m feeling verb-y, I’ll go to a cookbook and write down all the action words: mix, stir, whisk, sift... Sometimes I start thinking of a group of words and add a bunch at once. Recently I added words I like saying out loud: Iowa, Ohio, Maori, autumn, iota, swift, oriel, oleo.

I started collecting words with my writers group several years ago. We drew words from our word jars each time we met then each of us would write something using the same four words for our next meeting. 

Every chapter in Little Klein was written using those word jar words. Harold turns out to be sickly so I could  have his mother warm a teakettle day and night. A storm arose when I had to use the word wind. 

If you like to write, I think you’ll have as much fun as I do collecting pictures, names, and words. Better yet, grab a friend and start collecting together. Then watch your writing soar!