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 Iowa (8)


The Curse of the Buttons

Advance reading copies have arrived! The Curse of the Buttons is set for fall release. I've just reread Ike's story cover to beautiful cover and can't wait for you to read it, too.

Ike is a granddaddy in The Luck of the Buttons and Button Down. But he was a boy once, and this is his tale of adventure. Here's a teaser:

"Eleven is not too young for war," Ike said to Barfoot, who swished his tail agreeably, then lumbered to the yard table and stuck his nose in an unattended pie.

When Iowa is called up to represent the Union of the United States of America, Ike is beside himself with excitement. But he's left behind with Mother and the aunts and girl cousins while the Button men march forth toward glory. Ike fears his fate is sealed unless he can call on the ingenuity of his fabled (some say cursed) Uncle Palmer, disguise himself as a drummer boy, and meet up with the Iowa First. But some opportunities are meant to be missed. And some arrive when you least expect them. 


Why Iowa...spring

 I'm hoping for a traditional blooming midwest spring when I visit there next week. Today's Why Iowa comes from an email I received from Kara Backlund who described her Iowa day to me. Stunning. And she sent photos.


dogwoodThe dogwood leaves are much bigger than a mouse's ear, and the lilac buds are growing but still very small.  Tulips and hyacinths are blooming, yarrow sprouting, mint resurrecting, dandelions staking their claim. You will be landing, to use a midwestern phrase, smack dab in the middle of a prairie spring!


grape hyacinthI met Kara when she moved to Cedar Rapids from St. Pierre, Manitoba where she taught college English. She is not only a great reader and writer (check out Kara's blog A Peculiar Influence, about her challenge to read a classic a week), she is also an extraordinary baker.

I loved this story Kara told me about her baking life so will share it with you, too. To see photos and find out where to buy her baked goods, join Pumpernickel Place on Facebook.  

I grew up watching my mom and grandmas bake. I remember sitting at my paternal grandma's formica kitchen table in her log cabin in Alaska while she shaped 20 loaves of bread; her weekly baking! My other grandma made a pie every day and always packed a piece in my grandpa's lunch box, which made the other guys on his crew of the Illinois Highway Department a little jealous.  She approached the daily pies and all her other baking and canning in a matter of fact way. I never felt that there was anything mysterious or complicated about baking; it was just something that people did, like cutting their own hair and changing the oil in their own cars.

After a few years of making cookies, I baked my first loaf of bread at age 20; as a poor grad student I found it was cheaper to make it than buy it and I made about 4 loaves of bread a week that year, and gave away many tins of cookies as Christmas gifts. My mom and I baked and decorated my 4 tier wedding cake.

Over time I taught myself, with my mother and grandmothers' help, to make yeast breads, cakes, pies, cookies, graham crackers and other things. In Manitoba, I never even thought of selling my creations because nearly everyone baked their own things. Suddenly when I moved to Cedar Rapids, there was demand!

Last year my stand at the farmers market was successful, and I hope for a similar response this year. I teach myself new recipes and techniques through books and youtube videos. Friends and family get to eat the mistakes, and the successes too.  My newest (and oldest) fun ingredient that I haven't had a chance to use yet: a sourdough starter that journeyed the Oregon Trail in the 1800s!



Last week I wrote about my decision to set The Luck of the Buttons in Iowa. It got me thinking about the notion of place and what qualities people value in their home states. Several Iowans have shared their thoughts, with a few more to come, including today's guest writer, Katie Mills Giorgio. Look for other states to be represented soon, including the reflections of school children in Hawaii. 

Katie Mills Giorgio is a freelance writer living, working and raising a family in her hometown of Cedar Rapids. She writes for dozens of newspapers, magazines and websites (and even sometimes just for fun!) and hopes to someday make the leap into the world of children’s literature. You can read more about her writing life at

I am proud to say I was born in the great state of Iowa (my birthday is actually the same date Iowa officially became a state way back in 1846!) But growing up, we moved around a lot so I'm not a lifelong resident of the state.

It's interesting though when I look back on all of our moves that Iowa remains a constant. We moved to Illinois but Iowa pulled us back. Then we went all the way down south to Georgia...again Iowa pulled us back. I tried Illinois again after college, only to be pulled back to Iowa.

Admittedly, the last move back to Iowa (now more than seven years ago) was my own choice. I was about to start my own family and have always known I wanted to raise my kids in my hometown of Cedar Rapids.

I've loved something about all the places I've lived. But Iowa—Cedar Rapids, in fact—means the most. It means family and fun because we are lucky enough to be surrounded by relatives. It means having a big backyard to run and play in. It means living in a city with a downtown we love to frequent. But it also means we are close to wide open spaces. We pick strawberries in the summer, apples in the fall and go chop down our own Christmas tree. And my son wouldn’t let me forget that Iowa means some pretty delicious sweet corn.

So maybe all of those years I wasn't just being pulled back. Iowa was simply calling me home.


Why Iowa...small towns

Thank you to Monica Leo for sharing her Why Iowa thoughts today from her cultural jewel in West Liberty, Iowa.

Monica is a first generation American, born to German refugees in the waning days of World War Two.  After the war, her parents ordered a set of Kasperle hand puppets from a German craftswoman, and Monica was hooked.  Since 1975, she has been creating and performing as founder and principal puppeteer of  Eulenspiegel Puppet Theatre.  Eulenspiegel’s home is Owl Glass Puppetry Center, a tiny center in the small town of West Liberty, Iowa. Monica lives in a log cabin in the woods with her carpenter husband, John Jenks.

When I started touring with the puppets, one of my surprising discoveries was the diversity in this seemingly white bread state.  Living in Iowa City, as I did at that time, I had learned to believe that rural areas (and people) were essentially all cut out of the same cloth.  Was I ever wrong!  Places like Amana and Manning celebrated their German heritage, as reflected in the pace of the school residencies my puppet partner and I did (work hard; take a nice break; too much rushing around has a negative effect on quality).  Columbus Junction was one hundred per cent blonde and blue-eyed the first time we worked there; imagine my surprise when we came back to a school that was fifty per cent Latino!  And Postville!  We watched Postville go from German/Scandinavian to Latino/Central European/Hassidic Jewish! 

In western Iowa, we made friends with Floyd Pearce and reveled in his amazing print shop, located in one-street Cumberland, in which he published exquisite books using antique letterpress technology.  He took us to tiny Mt. Aetna to meet his friend Merrill, an accomplished pianist who’d played in venues all over the United States.  Merrill lived in an ordinary looking ranch style house that revealed itself as a veritable art gallery when we entered.  He’d shared the house for some years with Isadora Duncan’s former private secretary.

We even worked at the Maharishi Elementary School of the Age of Enlightenment in Fairfield.  Having no idea where it was located,  we asked a college student, who hopped into our van and said he’d show us the way.  “What are you doing here?” he asked.  “Puppets.”   A little later he repeated his question.  “Puppets,” I said.  “We’re making puppets with the kids...and doing puppet shows!”  “Oh,” he said, “I thought you were speaking metaphorically.”

I’ve come to believe that Iowa’s soul is most visible in its smallest towns.





Why Iowa...serendipity

WHY IOWA continues as I hear from more artists and writers who share what it means to live, work, and play in Iowa. If you have thoughts or images on this subject, email me here. Not an Iowan? What is it about your state that sets it apart? Why (insert your state here)? Look for a photo gallery coming soon, and knitters, don't forget to read this and submit your entry to win Michelle Edwards's A Knitter's Home Companion. 

I was introduced to author and artist Claudia McGehee over a bowl of soup at Devotay in Iowa City on the coldest, snowiest of Iowa days. The author and illustrator of  A Tallgrass Prairie Alphabet and Where Do Birds Live? among other wonderful books and works of art celebrating the natural world, Claudia turned our conversation to dreams of spring and the transformation that would occur in Iowa. A picnic was planned for May, in a cemetery that is home to a tall grass prairie; the picnic where I would meet Tugs Button. Serendipity! Enjoy Claudia's thoughts on Iowa and serendipity. 

Prairie Sunset, scratchboard and watercolor by Claudia McGehee

I made several moves as a young adult before my husband and I finally planted in Iowa nearly 20 years ago. Introducing myself to every new home, I followed the old adage “To know the land is to know the people”.  Maybe this stems from my former occupation of archaeologist, where geography literally does inform on past populations and individuals. But there’s also a spiritual, romantic component to looking at the land and wondering about those who’ve been here before me.

Just before we moved out to Iowa from Washington state, my dad reminded me that a few of my ancestors had lived in Iowa in the 1800’s.  A few continued on to Oregon and Washington (my great-grandparents met on a westward bound wagon train on the Oregon Trail!), but some stayed on in Little Sioux, Iowa (close to the Nebraska border).  A couple summers ago, we found these pioneering family members in a little cemetery nestled at the bottom on the Loess Hills. It was strange to think that I wasn’t the first in my clan to stand in the tallgrass prairies that I had grown to love so. I realized that for me, to know this land, Iowa, is to also know my family. And to also know myself.