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Micro-Book Review: Button Up!

Button Up!
by Alice Schertle
Illustrated by Petra Mathers
HMH Books for Young Readers, 2009
40 pages

Button Up! opens with a question on the inside flap of the book jacket cover: “Do the clothes in your closet have a life all their own?” Through poetry, this book aims to answer those questions. Each piece of clothing, each shoe, each pair of underwear is linked to one child, usually in some alliterative sense:

--Bertie’s Shoelaces
--Violet’s Hiking Hat
--The Song of Harvey’s Galoshes
--Emily’s Undies
--Bob’s Bicycle Helmet

The language is delightful and joyful, surprising and warm, genuine and friendly:

Emily’s Undies

We’re Emily’s undies
with laces and bows.
Emily shows us
wherever she goes.
She doesn’t wear diapers,
not even to bed.
Now she wears undies
with ruffles instead.               

Wanda’s Swimsuit

We like to be wet,
Wanda and I,
I’m Wanda’s swimsuit,
we don’t like dry.

These poems illustrate the intimate relationships that we often have with our clothes. Each poem personifies a piece of clothing like it's a best friend. And, in a way, isn’t that exactly what it is? Well, on our good days, I guess. We could also look at our clothes—the clothes we hate, that don’t fit us right—as our worst enemies or frenemies. But this book doesn't travel down that negative road. Instead, each poem positively describes a loving relationship between cloth and kin:

Bob’s Bicycle Helmet

And if some day
the sky should fall
it will not hurt
Bob’s head at all.

Bob’s on his bike again.
I’m on Bob.
I’ve got him covered.
I’m on the job.

Jennifer’s Shoes

We are learning the ways
of Jennifer’s world:
the way that Jennifer’s
toes are curled,
the softness of carpet,
the steepness of stair,
the curve of the rung
under Jennifer’s chair
the hole in the heel
of Jennifer’s socks

The poems pop with sassy and spunky language. And in addition to each article of clothing describing what they are, they also distinguish themselves by describing what they are not:

Joshua’s Jammies

We are the jammies that Joshua wears,
    not jammies for penguins,
    not jammies for bears,
    not jammies for tigers with knots in their tails

Tanya’s Old T-Shirt

I live in a bucket shoved under a stair.
They call me a dust rag!
I don’t think it’s fair.

I’m still the same size as when I was new.
I didn’t shrink—
it was Tanya who GREW.

The illustrations by Petra Mathers are composed of bright and colorful pastels and water colors. Each character is personified as an animal. For example: Bertie is a beaver, Violet is a duck, Harvey is a pig, and Emily is a mouse. Many of the drawings seem to jump off the page, action-packed: Harvey kicks up the mud as sheets of rain fall down; Emily’s undies ruffle in the breeze; cherry blossoms fly off a tree in the pre-storm wind; Jack jumps for joy after scoring a soccer goal; and as Wanda screams, “CANNONBALL!” she creates a big, firework splash in the pool.

Allie Leach is the Poetry Center's Education Programs Assistant and co-editor of the Wordplay blog.

Created on: 
Tuesday, September 24, 2013
Arizona Board of Regents