Clements draws on his memory of classroom fads for this newest exploration of sixth-grade politics.
Grace likes to collect things. When her grandfather takes her around the old New England mill he’s bought, she decides to add the dozens of boxes of buttons she finds there to her already-cluttered room. “I have a theory about why I collect so many things,” Grace adds intriguingly, but this motivation is never satisfyingly revealed. Described as “pretty,” she prefers scientific observation to trips to the mall and is slowly realizing the ways that her best friend, Ellie, who’s also “pretty,” makes her feel inadequate and unsupported. When Grace brings a handful of buttons to school as part of a social studies unit on the Industrial Revolution, other kids become inexplicably fascinated by them, and soon their school is overcome by a button craze reminiscent of the 17th-century Dutch tulip bubble or, more recently, Pogs. As trading and hoarding reach a fever pitch, Grace tries to navigate the destruction of one friendship, the start of another, and her own place in the middle school hierarchy. The button craze keeps the story tripping along, but somewhat broad characterizations and relatively low stakes—not to mention a perfectly neat ending—do not. Grace goes to an Illinois school where no one is identified racially, but all faces on the cover present white.
A readable but essentially inconsequential addition to Clements’ oeuvre. (Fiction. 8-12)