In 1929 Iowa, Ned Button is thrilled when local football hero Lester Ward is tapped to attend the University of Iowa, the first-ever player from Goodhue. Ned wants to be just like Lester, but his puny frame puts him at a disadvantage. He probably won’t even be able to go to a game to watch Lester play, since his family is the stay-at-home type, not to mention the money it would cost. Even his fantasy of being a football hero on the playground are dashed when Lester’s younger brother Burton won’t give Ned his leather football back, leaving Ned and his friends to make do with a paper and twine substitute. Then his grandfather not only offers to coach Ned’s pickup team against Burton’s, but also finds a way to get tickets for an Iowa game. But will Granddaddy’s sudden illness ruin Ned’s dreams?
This book is a sequel to The Luck of the Buttons, which featured Ned’s sister Tugs as the main character. Short chapters, lots of dialogue and humor, and the sports theme will get reluctant readers to try it. Ylvisaker doesn’t spoon-feed her readers. It takes some time to figure out who is who, but kids will be hooked by the quirky characters. They will root for Ned, an appealing boy trying to fight family tradition and bullies at the same time, and Granddaddy Ike, who likes to have Ned read aloud the only book he possesses, The Wonderful Wizard of Oz. Warmly recommended for ages 8-12.