Monday, April 4, 2022

The Button Box by Bridget Hodder and Fawzia Gilani-Williams, illustrations by Harshad Marathe

The Button Box by Bridget Hodder and Fawzia Gilani-Williams, illustrations by Harshad Marathe
Format:  E-ARC
Publisher:  Kar Ben Publishing
Number of pages:  152
Published:  April 1st, 2022
Source: Netgalley and Publisher via Books Forward

From Goodreads:    If a magical button and a mysterious cat could transport you to the past...would you save the future?

Opening Line: "Don't tell Granny Buena, okay?"

After being bullied, called an awful name, and losing a button off her shirt at school, Ava implores her cousin Nadeem not to tell their Granny Buena.  But Nadeem knows Granny will find out anyways because he can't keep a secret like that from his mom, who will ultimately tell Granny, so he tells Ava that she'll just end up having to confess everything to their Granny anyway.  Granny Buena calmly listens to Ava's story and upon seeing her missing button, pulls out her button box, filled with generations of buttons from their Sephardic ancestors and begins to tell them the story of Prince Abdur Rahman.  Following the story, Granny steals away to her room for a nap and the two cousins begin to explore the crystal button box further.   Then the moment comes that oh so reminded me of the Magic Tree House series, which my kiddo and I loved reading together, and Ava and Nadeem are whisked away on a time traveling adventure to ancient Morocco where they come face to face with Nadeem's ancestor, Prince Rahman.  The cousins are launched on an adventure into the past to help the prince escape to Spain.  

In this post from Smack Dab in the Middle, Hodder explains how The Button Box became a collaboration between the two authors and explains what it's like co-authoring a book.  It's really worth a read.  The Button Box was a pretty quick read and a lovely own voices story.  I enjoyed learning about Sephardic Jews and how much their culture is intertwined with Muslim culture.  Not only does the story highlight the cross cultural, interfaith friendship between Ava and Nadeem, it equally represented both cultures, focusing on the commonalities they shared.  There were references to daily life, preparing of food and customs for both.    I also really love a story where I feel like I'm learning something new and especially one that incorporates another language, in this case the various Islamic phrases.  There's even a nice glossary at the end of the book, as well as an author's note explaining Muslim faith, Judaism and specifically where Sephardic Jews descended from.  The historical significance of Prince Abdur Rahman's reign is also explained.  Overall, this was a wonderful story with positive messaging, and interesting characters.  Granny Buena sounds wonderful, and I enjoyed her sayings and expressions, my favorite was that "everything in life needs an anchor."  I hope to see more stories featuring Ava and Nadeem in the future. 

About the authors: Like Ava in "The Button Box," Bridget Hodder is Sephardic. She is also the daughter and granddaughter of Holocaust survivors. Her first middle grade book, “The Rat Prince,” was published by Farrar, Straus & Giroux, and was an ILA -CBC Children's Choice List starred selection. And, like Nadeem in “The Button Box,” Fawzia Gilani-Williams is Muslim. She currently works in the UAE as a cluster librarian. Her first book, “Yaffa and Fatima: Shalom, Salaam,” was awarded a silver medal by the Sydney Taylor Book Award. 

**A huge thank you to Books Forward, and the publisher for my E-ARC**  

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