Spring 2022

The Button Box

  • Interest Level: Grade 3 - Grade 7
  • Reading Level: Grade 4

After Jewish fifth-grader Ava and her Muslim best friend Nadeem are called hateful names at school, Ava’s Granny Buena rummages in her closet and pulls out a glittering crystal button box. It’s packed with buttons that generations of Ava’s Sephardic ancestors have cherished. With the help of Granny’s mysterious cat Sheba, Ava and Nadeem discover that a button from the button box will take them back in time. Suddenly, they are in ancient Morocco, where Nadeem’s ancestor, Prince Abdur Rahman, is running for his life. Can Ava and Nadeem help the prince escape to Spain and fulfill his destiny, creating a legendary Golden Age for Muslims, Jews and Christians?

Format Your Price Add
Interest Level Grade 3 - Grade 7
Reading Level Grade 4
Genre Fiction
Copyright 2022
Publisher Lerner Publishing Group
Imprint Kar-Ben Publishing ®
Language English
Number of Pages 152
Publication Date 2022-04-01
Text Type Fiction—Historical
BISACS JUV039060, JUV039280, JUV064000
Dewey [Fic]
Dimensions 5.25 x 7.5
Lexile 770
Features Author/Illustrator note, Glossary, Reviewed, and Starred Reviews


Karuna Riazi

“A profoundly inspiring look at interfaith love and courage that will thrill and move readers. Timely and timeless.”—Karuna Riazi, author of the Gauntlet series

Laura Shovan

“This exciting cross-cultural story will have young readers at the edge of their seats, clamoring for more Button Box escapades. A perfect choice for fans of The Magic Treehouse series who are transitioning to middle-grade novels.”—Laura Shovan, coauthor of Sydney Taylor Notable Book A Place at the Table

Jewish Book Council

This live­ly mid­dle grade adven­ture has two young pro­tag­o­nists, cousins Ava and Nadeem. Ava is Jew­ish while Nadeem is Mus­lim, and a school bul­ly tor­ments them due to their reli­gious back­grounds. They tell their grand­moth­er, a con­sum­mate sto­ry-teller and very wise woman. She begins to tell them an ancient tale, but is inter­rupt­ed and the tale remains unfinished.

Granny Bue­na has a box of inter­est­ing old but­tons, some antique, one of which has the mag­i­cal prop­er­ty of trans­port­ing the chil­dren back in time. They find them­selves in ancient Moroc­co, becom­ing acquaint­ed with his­tor­i­cal fig­ures, as well as some of their own ances­tors. The authors con­struct a world filled with col­or and tex­ture that will spark the inter­ests of young read­ers of today. The sights, the scents, and the atmos­pheres of ancient bazaars and homes cre­ate an indeli­ble impres­sion with char­ac­ters clad in robes, scarves, and turbans.

One of the char­ac­ters, Abdul Rah­man, is a Mus­lim prince who is flee­ing boun­ty hunters and is in need of the chil­dren’s help to escape to safe­ty in Spain. They are hes­i­tant because they know that if they are caught, the Jew­ish com­mu­ni­ty will suf­fer the con­se­quences. Along with a brave, resource­ful cousin, they gath­er their courage and help facil­i­tate a dar­ing escape that indi­rect­ly, but clear­ly, paves the way for a gold­en age of peace and pros­per­i­ty for the Jews of Spain.

Upon reen­try to mod­ern times, Ava and Nadeem real­ize that they have learned not only a slice of his­to­ry but also about their own abil­i­ties to han­dle bul­lies as well as the impor­tance of a well-told tale.

A glos­sary of terms is append­ed, as well as an authors’ note dis­cussing the top­ics addressed in the book such as Sephardic Jew­ry, some parts of Span­ish his­to­ry, and the over­lap between folk­lore and his­tor­i­cal events.

The But­ton Box is the first in a pro­ject­ed series about time trav­el and history.

Kirkus Reviews

“Both the modern and medieval characters are presented in emotionally charged language as unique individuals with strong personalities.” —Kirkus Reviews STARRED

Author: Fawzia Gilani-Williams

Fawzia Gilani was born and raised in England where she became a teacher. She is the author of many children's books, including A Treasury of Eid Tales, and is currently working on an Islamic fairy tale series. She serves as an international educational consultant with a PhD in children's literature and character development. She is a Global Representative for the International Positive Education Network and works for the Abu Dhabi Education Council. She spends her time in the United Arab Emirates, Ohio, and England with her daughter and husband. She looks forward to the day when world conflict is no more.

Author: Bridget Hodder

Bridget Hodder began her career as an Aztec archaeologist, translating ancient stories. Then she realized she had her own tales to tell. She has a History degree from Mount Holyoke College, as well as M.A.s in Archaeology and Anthropology from UCLA and Vanderbilt University.

Illustrator: Harshad Marathe

Harshad Marathe is an illustrator and storyteller. He has an M.F.A. from the School of Visual Arts in New York City, and has illustrated many books. He has backpacked all over the world. He lives in India.

Behind The Button Box: A Time-Travelling, Cross-Cultural Adventure

The Button Box is a new middle-grade novel about cousins, one Jewish and one Muslim, who travel back in time to ancient Morocco. Below, co-authors Bridget Hodder and Fawzia Gilani-Williams discuss their hopes for the book, what inspired them, and more. Where did you get the inspiration… View →