This book pushes all the right buttons
The Button Book by Sally Nicholls and Bethan Woollvin
The Button Book can only be described as a work of genius and complete and utter picture book perfection! This is exceptionally inventive and playful, and absolutely hilarious, with stunning illustrations. Although not a new publication, this has recently been released in paperback, and my family has only just discovered it. We read this last night for the first time and had so much fun, I had to read it three times in a row. It's been revisited over and over again today and becomes more entertaining each time.
We encounter a group of animals and lots of buttons and discover what happens when each one is pushed. Will it be a clapping button, a singing one, blow raspberries or incite a tickle attack? Last of all is a sleep button making this ideal for bedtime. An optional “wake up” button is hidden in the final scene (which my eldest is unable to ignore).
The striking illustrations with their bright, contrasting colours, bold shapes and interesting characters will engage babies and toddlers. The simple text and interactive aspect will also appeal to the very young. Older children will find the images attractive too and enjoy getting carried away with the imaginative play.
I bought The Button Book out of curiosity because I love Sally Nicholls’ novels for older children and am a huge fan of Bethan Woollvin. I thought my children might be a bit beyond this, especially the eldest who is almost six, but I was wrong! The almost-six-year-old enjoyed this just as much as the three-and-a-half year-old. They were both in stitches and fully immersed in the action as we read.
It’s impossible not to get caught up in the excitement and plunge into the world this book evokes. At first, my youngest refused to touch the buttons because they weren’t “real.” After a few minutes, they were button-pushing as enthusiastically as the rest of us.
The animals are incredibly cute and extremely amusing when reacting to the buttons. Their body language prior to and post pressing is often priceless (especially when purple is approached). At different times they appear mischievous, shocked, apprehensive and elated. I love the dinosaur’s expression when about to push the tiny purple (tickle) button, and the upside-down turtle shedding tears of laughter on the next page.
The creatures are particularly adorable when hugging and I love how they interact throughout the book. The dog tucks the turtle under his arm as they sit atop the elephant and gleefully approach the green (raspberry-blowing) button. Later on, the turtle is almost blown away when the red button blasts, only for the dog holding on to his feet.
The Button Book comes to life as it is read aloud and absolutely demands an audience. This is an excellent example of the magic of picture books. The images and words create a powerful alchemy to which the reader is the ultimate catalyst. The buttons attract more and more animals as the story progresses and the excitement builds.
At first there's just a solitary squirrel (prodding the red button cautiously with a stick), but the sound it makes draws a dog and a large bird. Their clapping entices an elephant and even more creatures appear and join in once the singing begins. A sense of fun and exhilaration radiates from every page (including the endpapers) and the reader will find the buttons just as thrilling and inviting as the animals do.
The Button Book can even be enjoyed when it’s not being read! The green button is the favourite in this house, and it has been going off all day independently of the book. The eldest has been inventing additional buttons and I heard both children re-enacting the story with their Playmobil figures earlier too.
Sally Nicholls writes spellbinding and award-winning fiction for older children, but this is our first picture book by this author. I’ll definitely be keeping an eye out for more. The illustrations are amazing - I love Bethan Woollvin’s artwork. We have I Can Catch a Monster (review coming soon) and Meet the Planets (written by Caryl Hart), and I’m dying to get hold of her fairy tales.
The youngest has been carrying The Button Book around all day and “read” it to us all first thing this morning. This is a brilliant story for a family with siblings of different ages to enjoy together. I could see it working really well in a nursery or classroom setting, but perhaps not in a library! Seriously silly and delightfully distracting, this magnificent masterpiece is every bit as irresistible as an enormous red button.
Title: The Button Book
Author: Sally Nicholls
Illustrator: Bethan Woollvin
Publisher: Andersen Press
Publication Date: October 2019