The Silver Button

Overview

At the same moment that Jodie’s baby brother takes his first step, a city’s worth of moments unfold in a masterful picture book from Bob Graham.

At 9:59 on a Thursday morning, Jodie draws a duck. As her pen hovers in the air, ready to add a silver button to the duck’s boot, her little brother Jonathan pushes to his feet, sways, and takes his first step. At the exact same moment, their mom plays a pennywhistle in the kitchen, a man buys fresh bread at the bakery, a baby is born, ...

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Overview

At the same moment that Jodie’s baby brother takes his first step, a city’s worth of moments unfold in a masterful picture book from Bob Graham.

At 9:59 on a Thursday morning, Jodie draws a duck. As her pen hovers in the air, ready to add a silver button to the duck’s boot, her little brother Jonathan pushes to his feet, sways, and takes his first step. At the exact same moment, their mom plays a pennywhistle in the kitchen, a man buys fresh bread at the bakery, a baby is born, a soldier says good-bye to his mom, a granddad and granddaughter play with leaves in the park, a blackbird finds a worm. . . . From an ordinary scene of an apartment strewn with child’s artwork and toys to a bird’s-eye view of a city morning pulsing with life, Bob Graham celebrates a whole world-vision in a single moment, encouraging readers to stop, observe, and savor the world around them.

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Editorial Reviews

The New York Times - Sarah Harrison Smith
Just as the 16th-century master [Albrecht Dürer] studied an ordinary cross section of sod, and saw great, if unconventional, beauty and variety there, so Graham, in showing the range of activity in a city over the course of a mere minute, shows something unconventional but precious about life and time. It's rare for such an admirably simple children's book to suggest so much that's profound. The Silver Button is indeed something very special, a book that speaks to the old and the young at their own levels, but says the same thing to both.
Publishers Weekly
★ 09/02/2013
In this quiet, thought-provoking picture book, Graham (A Bus Called Heaven) marvels at the myriad things that transpire in a moment’s time. At 9:59 one Thursday morning, Jodie is about to put the finishing touch on her drawing of a duck when her younger brother, Jonathan, pushes himself up and takes his first step. The scene moves to the kitchen where the children’s mother plays the pennywhistle, a bit sadly. From there, the same point in time is observed outside, next door, and across the city, as “an early-morning jogger puff on by,” a soldier bids goodbye to his mother, a baby is born, an old woman “push everything she owned in her cart,” and a tanker heads to China. Graham deftly depicts an array of perspectives in his signature ink-and-watercolor artwork, from a close-up portrait of Jonathan teetering toward the family dog to a view of the city skyline as seen by the seals in the bay. The understated sentences gently encapsulate moments that are mundane, melancholy, and joyful, encouraging readers to ponder all that might be happening in the world at any given instant. Ages 4–6. (Oct.)
From the Publisher
This is an elegant piece of living theater, something into which readers can nestle and observe. ... A book to bathe in, reminding readers that something magical is happening every instant.
—Kirkus Reviews (starred review)

In his inimitable, deceptively simple style, Graham celebrates what can happen in a single moment and reminds readers to pause and observe. ... While the story is minimal, there is a lot to see and absorb. The detailed pictures bear repeated inspection, the characters are appealing, and the story is very child-oriented. This unusual offering will enhance collections and work equally well in classrooms or one-on-one.
—School Library Journal (starred review)

In this quiet, thought-provoking picture book, Graham marvels at the myriad things that transpire in a moment’s time. ... Graham deftly depicts an array of perspectives in his signature ink-and-watercolor artwork...The understated sentences gently encapsulate moments that are mundane, melancholy, and joyful, encouraging readers to ponder all that might be happening in the world at any given instant.
—Publishers Weekly (starred review)

This sensitive picture book celebrates the synchronicity of one precious tick of the clock.
—The Wall Street Journal

Children's Literature - Ken Marantz and Sylvia Marantz
Before the title page we meet young Jodie, drawing a duck complete with top hat, cane, and boots with silver buttons. She stops for a rest after drawing just two. As the story continues, her little brother Jonathan rises to take his first step. In the kitchen, their mom begins to play her whistle. At the same time, a pigeon nests on their roof, and we move across double pages to the other actions also taking place. A man is buying bread at the bakery; children are playing in the park; ducks are flying; a baby is born; we move past the shore into the busy city and out over the bay. Meanwhile, Jonathan is coming back down on his knees as Jodie adds her last silver button on the duck’s boots and announces the exciting first step. Graham uses ink and sensitive watercolors on large pages to draw us into the sketchy naturalism of the action in Jonathan’s new world. Attention is drawn to the nuances of existence, from Jonathan’s drooping diaper to an old lady pushing her cart and the new baby. Touches of silver enliven the jacket. Reviewer: Ken Marantz and Sylvia Marantz AGERANGE: Ages 4 to 6.
School Library Journal
★ 09/01/2013
PreS-Gr 2—In his inimitable, deceptively simple style, Graham celebrates what can happen in a single moment and reminds readers to pause and observe. The text begins before the title page: "At 9:59 on Thursday morning, Jodie drew a duck." Next her baby brother takes his first step. As he does so, Graham cinematically pulls back farther and farther, showing other things happening at that instant: a jogger puffs by, a soldier hugs his mother, a blackbird finds a worm, a baby is born, and so on, until the story comes full circle. Jonathan falls down, Jodie tells her mother about his first step, and the clock strikes 10:00. Graham's detail-filled ink and watercolor illustrations are in full force here. Initially, Jonathan fills the page, but rapidly the view pulls back, expanding the point of view: the jogger is seen through a window, the block from above, then a bird's-eye view of the city, with the block, the hospital, and the beach visible, and finally a close-up of Mom hugging her baby boy. While the story is minimal, there is a lot to see and absorb. The detailed pictures bear repeated inspection, the characters are appealing, and the story is very child-oriented. This unusual offering will enhance collections and work equally well in classrooms or one-on-one. A worthwhile addition.—Amy Lilien-Harper, The Ferguson Library, Stamford, CT
Kirkus Reviews
Graham captures a moment in time, and like many moments, it is full to the brim. A little girl draws a duck. Before she can ink in the final silver button of the duck's morning coat, her brother takes his first walking steps. In the kitchen, her mother plays the pennywhistle. A pigeon builds a nest on a cornice; a jogger shuffles by. A loaf of bread is bought; a soldier says goodbye to his mother. Birds head south; the city wakes; a baby is born; a blackbird (clearly the early bird) eats a worm. This is an elegant piece of living theater, something into which readers can nestle and observe. The natty artwork is a fine combination of ink, colors lighter than air and colors as rich as the inside of a bonbon. There are bird's-eye perspectives reminiscent of Mitsumasa Anno and the sweet, almost dreamlike broken linework of John Burningham, but the illustrations are handsome and inviting on their very own. This is not an easy book, even with its scant text. This apparent slice of the everyday moves quietly into the existential. A book to bathe in, reminding readers that something magical is happening every instant. (Picture book. 4-6)
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780763664374
  • Publisher: Candlewick Press
  • Publication date: 10/8/2013
  • Pages: 32
  • Sales rank: 326,763
  • Age range: 4 - 6 Years
  • Product dimensions: 9.90 (w) x 11.40 (h) x 0.50 (d)

Meet the Author

Bob Graham

Bob Graham is the author-illustrator of many award-winning books for children, including A Bus Called Heaven, How to Heal a Broken Wing, and April and Esme, Tooth Fairies. He lives in Australia.

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