Cover image for Buttons
Cole, Brock.
Personal Author:
First edition.
Publication Information:
New York : Farrar Straus Giroux, 2000.
Physical Description:
32 unnumbered pages : color illustrations ; 25 x 27 cm
When their father eats so much that he pops the buttons off his britches, each of his three daughters tries a different plan to find replacements.
Reading Level:
AD 630 Lexile.
Program Information:
Accelerated Reader AR LG 4.6 0.5 36437.

Reading Counts RC K-2 3.9 2 Quiz: 22140 Guided reading level: NR.
Format :


Call Number
Material Type
Home Location
Item Holds
J PIC.BK. Juvenile Fiction Central Closed Stacks
PIC. BK. Juvenile Fiction Picture Books
PIC. BK. Juvenile Fiction Picture Books

On Order



Brock Cole's first picture book in nearly ten years

Once there was an old man who ate so much his britches burst and his buttons popped one, two, three, into the fire. "Wife! Wife!" he cried. "We are undone! My britches have burst and my buttons are burnt, every one!

After putting her husband to bed, the wife enlists the aid of her three daughters in replacing their father's buttons. The eldest promises to find a rich man who will give her buttons in exchange for her hand in marriage. The second daughter decides to join the army for the sake of the buttons on a soldier's uniform. And the youngest is going to run through the meadows with her apron held out before her, hoping to catch a few buttons falling from the sky. Which of these young ladies will succeed in restoring the family fortunes? The answer is the essential and satisfying stuff of fairy tales. Brock Cole's whimsical prose and pictures make this original story feel like a hundred-year-old classic.

Author Notes

Brock Cole is the author and/or illustrator of many books. His picture books include The Giant's Toe and Larky Marvis; and his critically acclaimed novels, The Goats and Celine . He lives in Buffalo, New York.

Reviews 3

Booklist Review

Ages 5^-8. Cole's range, empathy, and imagination continue to astonish. This puckishly perfect picture book immediately insinuates itself into the heart. A very well fed paterfamilias bursts his buttons, and they pop into the fire. Literally undone, he takes to his bed, and his wife calls on their three daughters. The eldest decides to walk upon the Palace Bridge in her finest finery so that a rich man will fall in love with her and give her buttons. The second daughter vows to join the army, for everyone knows soldiers' uniforms have buttons to spare. The youngest, after much thought, decides to run about the meadow with her apron open, the better to catch buttons that fall from the sky. The eldest is set upon and tossed into the river, from which she's rescued by a bargeman whom she marries. The second daughter, sent to the front, rescues a young ensign and marries him. The youngest daughter, who has charmed a cowherd, is the one who actually manages to bring home the buttons, but perhaps not in the way she expected. It all ends with their wedding feast: the elder sisters return with spouses (and a babe), and the father neatly done up with a set of slightly used buttons. The cowherd mysteriously lacks same, but it is "a small fault and seems to run in the family." The language sparkles and begs to be read aloud. Adults will cheer the exquisitely detailed, vivacious line that delineates the characters in their vaguely eighteenth-century dress; children will find that the translucent color washes depict silks and water, ships and castles, battles and feasts with equal vibrancy. --GraceAnne A. DeCandido

Publisher's Weekly Review

A series of farcical mishaps steadily ups the comedy in Cole's (Alpha and the Dirty Baby) brightly polished romp. After their portly father eats so much that his britches burst and his buttons fly into the fire, three daughters concoct plans to find replacements. Setting off to snare a man who will fall in love with her and give her his buttons, the eldest encounters a "band of ruffians" who tip her over the balustrade of a bridge. She ends up marrying the handsome bargee who rescues her and realizes only much later that she has forgotten to ask for even one button ("She decided she would send her father a postcard instead"). The second girl disguises herself as a man and joins the army, intending to give her father the gold buttons from her new uniform. But her regiment is whisked off to battle, and when a brave young ensign is wounded, she tears off her jacket to make bandages ("Many buttons were lost and destroyed in the process, but who could think of buttons at a time like this?"). It falls to the youngest daughter to save the day, although her plan is the most harebrained of them all. Busy, hyperbolic pictures limn an appealing old-world setting. In his words and pictures, Cole treats the ridiculous characters with affection, not mockery, inviting readers into the story to laugh right along with them. Ages 5-up. (Mar.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved

School Library Journal Review

Gr 1-4-Three sisters come to their father's aid when the buttons on his britches pop into the fire. The eldest offers to search for a husband who will sacrifice his buttons in exchange for her hand in marriage. The second enlists in the army disguised as a boy to acquire the uniform buttons, and the youngest decides to run in the meadow with her apron extended to catch any buttons that may fall from the sky. Nothing goes quite as the feckless girls had foreseen, yet all three eventually find their own true loves and the youngest even manages to collect an apron full of buttons. This engaging yarn has the cadence and language of a traditional story and sometimes implores readers to answer rhetorical questions and commiserate with the characters. Watercolor illustrations that often flow across double pages place the action in the early 19th century and are littered with Dickensian figures and sprinkled with droll details. All of the characters have distinctive personalities and the plot, while having many predictable folktale elements, contains enough twists to surprise and delight. Well suited to both individual reading and group sharing, this charming combination of romance, adventure, and mirth might be difficult to buttonhole but is easy to enjoy.-Carol Ann Wilson, Westfield Memorial Library, NJ (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.