Ava is Sephardic Jewish and her cousin Nadeem is Muslim. Their different religions and cultures have never stopped them from being best friends. But after a bully makes them question their ties to each other, a visit to their grandmother opens up a whole new world. Thanks to Granny Buena’s magical Button Box–and her mysterious cat, Sheba–Ava and Nadeem find themselves transported a thousand years back in time to medieval Morocco. There, they meet their feisty Jewish ancestor, Ester ibn Evran, and a Muslim prince on the run from his enemies. Prince Abdur Rahman is trying to reach safety in Spain. It’s up to Ester, Ava, and Nadeem to help him. If they fail, they could change the course of history forever!


A unique plot with diverse main characters, ones you don’t find very often as protagonists in MG lit. It’s a fast pace read through 14 chapters. Abdur Rahmna was an actual prince as history tells us, who did escape to the safety of Spain. It’s a fun, fictional twist to have children help him make the trip. Yes, different faiths can work together toward a common goal.

Having a button be the unique portal to the past was a never before used device in time travel books. Although the book could have been longer, the shorter length is much appreciated in this day of 300 + page middle grade books.

Much discussion could take place from a classroom or at-home read aloud of THE BUTTON BOX. In particular, how the world today could learn from the kindness and peace loving cultures portrayed.

BOOK BIRTHDAY: April 1, 2022 PAGE COUNT: 152


  1. I learned about Morocco and it’s culture along with tidbits from Spain’s history.
  2. Ava and Nadeem were likeable and their companionship became a necessary link to the climatic ending.
  3. The many unfamiliar words were all defined in the 3-page back-pages glossary.
  4. Not to be missed are the author notes about who are Muslim and Sephardic Jews along with more background on Prince Abdur Rahman. Historical photos are also added in.
  5. It’s certainly sequel worthy with many directions these characters could take with the plot.


BRIDGET HODDER: Bridget has decades of experience as a reading and communication specialist, working primarily with young people with learning disabilities. Like Ava in “The Button Box,” Bridget is Sephardic. She is also the daughter and granddaughter of Holocaust survivors. Her first Middle Grade book, “The Rat Prince,” was published by Farrar, Straus & Giroux. “The Rat Prince” was an ILA -CBC Children’s Choice List starred selection, an Amazon Hot List pick, and was a finalist for the Mythopoeic Society award in Children’s Fantasy Literature. After the release of “The Button Box,” Bridget and Fawzia’s next co-written multicultural children’s tale for Kar-Ben / Lerner Books will be published in 2023. To learn more about Bridget’s life and work, visit her website: ​​

FAWZIA GILANI-WILLIAMS, PhD: Fawzia, who is Muslim, was born and raised in England, where she became an elementary school teacher. An internationally experienced educator, Fawzia has worked in England, the United States, and Canada. Her writing explores moral power, quiet heroism, and multicultural cognizance, and her research interests include child identity and empowerment, and Islamic critical theory. She currently works as a cluster librarian in the UAE, where she manages elementary school libraries.  Fawzia’s previous book, “Yaffa and Fatima: Shalom, Salaam,” illustrated by Chiara Fedele and published in 2017 by Lerner Books’ Kar-Ben imprint, was awarded a silver medal by the Sydney Taylor Book Award. To learn more about Fawzia’s life and work, visit her website:


Where did the inspiration for “The Button Box” come from? 

Fawzia and I have always been active in centering the voices of those who are marginalized in one way or another. This book is a joyful extension of that serious work, for Muslims and for Jews, in an increasingly anti-Muslim and anti-Jewish time. 

My personal inspiration for “The Button Box” came from my own experience in childhood of trying to reconcile the Sephardic part of my upbringing with the ways of the outside world. Since Sephardic Jews only represent about 1% of all Jews in the US, we are a tiny minority within a minority, and feeling marginalized comes with the territory. Very few people even know who we are.

This book, and the sequels that Fawzia and I hope will follow it, needed to be written not just for Jewish and Muslim children, but for all kids everywhere who know what it means to feel the fears that come with being different.


I received a digital copy of the book in exchange for my honest review. Comments are welcome below.

About Greg Pattridge

Climbing another mountain...always striving to reach the next peak in my life and career.
This entry was posted in Historical fiction, Middle Grade Book Reviews and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

10 Responses to THE BUTTON BOX

  1. Interesting setting and I appreciate the intention. Spain of course was occupied by the Moors for c. 600 years so I wonder how that is dealt with in the book? Thanks for the review!

  2. carolbaldwin says:

    This looks great. I’ll have to add it to my list of books to read!

  3. This looking like a really fascinating read. I love characters, their different faiths and their journey to remain friends and the setting. Time travel sounds fun too. The history reminds me a bit of the PB I reviewed last Friday. Timely share today!

  4. Andrea Mack says:

    I’ve been hearing a lot of good things about this one. I love books where I learn more about the world and its history – especially when it’s done in an entertaining way.

  5. I just saw this cover the other day for the first time. I am glad to read your review and learn what it is about. I like the idea of a button being the device used to time travel and the characters sound very interesting. Thanks for sharing.

  6. What a perfect book for these times. I love time-travel books and you make this one sound very enticing. I’m putting it on my TBR list. Thanks for telling me about it.

  7. I’ve been debating this one– Have you seen Somehere in Time, where Christopher Reeve’s character (spoiler!) is pulled out of the past when he looks at a modern coin that is in his pocket? It’s a great idea, and I love time travel, but my students are less thrilled. A trip to Morocco, though, sounds good.

  8. A button as a portal is an interesting twist. Plus it sounds like a fast-paced story. I’m going to try to check it out.

  9. Pingback: This week’s round-up of middle grade sci fi and fantasy from around the blogs (4/10/22) – Imobiliare 24

  10. Pingback: This week’s round-up of middle grade sci fi and fantasy from around the blogs (4/10/22) – Book Library

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