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Book Review

The Friendship War by has been reviewed by Focus on the Family’s marriage and parenting magazine.

Positive Elements

Spiritual Content

Sexual Content

Violent Content

Crude or Profane Language

Drug and Alcohol Content

Other Negative Elements


Pro-social Content

Objectionable Content

Summary Advisory

Plot Summary

When Grace goes to Boston to visit Grandpa, he shows her an old mill that he plans to renovate and lease to businesses. Knowing how much Grace loves antiques and collectibles, he tells her to take anything she wants from the mill’s old buildings. Grace finds a few items to add to her collections. In one room, she finds many boxes of buttons. She wants them so Grandpa mails them to her, and Grace puts the boxes under her bed.

At school, Grace’s social studies teacher talks about the industrial revolution. She shows the class an image of an old mill in Massachusetts, much like the one Grace’s grandfather owns. Grace volunteers to bring in some of the items she took from the mill, including some of the more interesting buttons she found.

After Grace shows her buttons to the class, one of Grace’s friends asks her to bring her bag of buttons to lunch. The next day, the kids at her table talk about the buttons. Then Ellie, Grace’s best friend and the most popular girl in sixth grade, suggests that everyone at their lunch table should bring buttons to show each other the next day.

Grace, envious of Ellie’s popularity, brings eight bags of buttons to school with her the next day, but only shows one of them at lunch so she won’t upset Ellie. Kids from other tables come to their table and look at the buttons, wanting to trade for them. Soon Ellie starts to make button bracelets and anklets, and boys bring in loops of string that are lined with buttons to trade with each other.

The school bus becomes a madhouse of bartering, and Ellie and Grace find themselves in a showdown over the prettiest pinwheel button yet found. When Grace beats Ellie in the trade for the button, Ellie excludes Grace from her table at lunch and refuses to talk to her.

As a budding scientist, Grace begins to gather observations about the button fad. It’s spreading. Fast. Without Ellie to do things with anymore, Grace begins to hang out with her friend Hank. The two go to a thrift store with Hank’s mom and find a large supply of antique buttons. They return to Grace’s house and sort the buttons by material and then divide them. Grace realizes how nice it is to spend time with Hank, who shares many of her same interests and enjoys her for who she is. Hank encourages Grace to make up with Ellie.

Grace tries. She gives the pinwheel button to Ellie for free and apologizes for making such a big deal over a silly button. Ellie takes the button but then returns it to Grace in shattered pieces later that day. This infuriates Grace, who determines to barter with girls for all of the jewelry Ellie’s made called Ellie’s Originals. She intends to rip each piece to shreds and give them all back to Ellie.

Hank disapproves of this vengeful unkindness. Grace comes to see that he’s right, and she tries to treat Ellie with kindness and end the button fad, which has spiraled out of control. Students are now fighting over buttons, causing problems on the bus and ruining friendships like hers and Ellie’s. Trying to decide what she can do to stop the madness, Grace seeks counsel from her older brother, Ben.

Ben teaches Grace about the economic principle of supply and demand. He implies that right now the demand for buttons is high, but if the supply were to increase, the demand would decrease due to the surplus. With this in mind, Grace bikes to and from school four times that night with her backpack full of the buttons from under her bed. She scatters them all over the school playground.

The next morning is utter chaos. Kids are running around everywhere searching for interesting buttons. The problem is, the fad hasn’t stopped. The supply of general buttons increased, but the supply of unique and interesting buttons is still low, making the trading increase not decrease.

Done with the nonsense caused by the buttons, Grace confronts Ellie and gives her back all of her originals — in one piece. She apologizes for being inconsiderate and mean. The two make up and become stronger friends than before.

Finally the principal calls an all-school assembly and orders that the students stop trading buttons at school. Any buttons found not on clothing will be confiscated. She also asks anyone with information on the individual who vandalized the schoolyard by throwing buttons all over it to come forward. The police are involved, and the culprit was caught on the security cameras, though it was too dark to make out who it was.

Grace goes to the principal’s office. Before she explains her actions, Hank and Ellie rush in to defend her. Together all three explain about the fights and Grace’s plan to stop the fad by affecting the supply of buttons. She thought it would help. They assure the principal that they will pay for any cost the school might have spent to clear away the buttons. The total cost for button removal is $600.

Grace, Hank and Ellie sell most of Grace’s buttons. Grandpa helps them open an eBay account, and the kids diligently divvy up the tasks to ensure that the sales go well. Some of the buttons are worth nearly $10 because of their material or age. Before the kids know it, they’ve paid their debt and have become closer friends.

Christian Beliefs


Other Belief Systems

Grace and her Mom share a conversation about the death of Grace’s Gramma. Mom tells of Descartes’ theory of the existence of personhood through consciousness. Essentially Mom talks to Grace about her theory that the conscious part of human beings — the part that does all the thinking and imagining — doesn’t cease to exist after death. The essence of a person continues on post-death. She offers this as a source of encouragement and comfort to Grace and herself.

Authority Roles

Grandpa encourages Grace in the things she enjoys, and the two of them share a strong relationship. He sends her loads of buttons without her parents’ permission and helps her open an eBay account without their awareness. Mom and Dad are upset about Grace’s actions, but understand.

The bus driver slams to a stop and allows cars to pass her while she yells at the kids and threatens to inform the principal about their behavior if they do not stay in their seats. Mrs. Porter, the school principal, communicates with the police to discover who vandalized the schoolyard by throwing buttons all over it. She calls an all-school assembly to put an end to the button fad. When Grace, Hank and Ellie come to her to confess and explain their parts in the button fad and the unintentional vandalism, she listens patiently and extends them grace. She agrees to talk to the police and explain the situation but holds the kids responsible for paying the bill for damage to property and the wasting of police time.


Ben calls Grace a crackpot. Grace keeps herself from calling Ben a jerk.

When Grandpa first shows Grace the Burnham Mills property, she thinks it would be a good place to film a zombie movie or hide a kidnapped girl. Later, Grace describes herself as a “wild button zombie.”

Grace describes Ellie as looking like a horse about to kick someone’s head off. Hank’s little sister pulled the heads and appendages off of her dolls to rearrange them. Hank refers to them as “Frankenstein dolls.”

A kid named Kevin shoves another boy named Cody. Cody shoves Kevin back, and the two start wrestling each other to the floor in the middle of the cafeteria. Other kids are yelling and fighting in a mass lunchroom riot.



Discussion Topics

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Additional Comments/Notes

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Episode Reviews



Readability Age Range

8 to 12


Andrew Clements






Record Label



Random House Children’s Books, a division of Penguin Random House LLC


On Video

Year Published





We hope this review was both interesting and useful. Please share it with family and friends who would benefit from it as well.

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