The Underhill Buttons

Deborah Shepherd

Joe and Hannah find a box of buttons in their barn. Mrs Underhill, the old lady who collected them over many years, tells the children that every button tells a story. The Dorset button is a tale of smuggling on the south coast and the Navajo button tells of an encounter with a mountain lion in Arizona. The Icelandic button involves some children in a desperate race against time to warn their neighbours who are in danger of being buried under icy slurry from a volcanic eruption. There is a scrimshaw button from whaling days in New England and a Tudor button involved in an encounter with a poacher. In the end the children have their own adventure attempting to rescue a young deer trapped in a storm. Their own button collection begins.

Joe opened the bag and carefully lifted out the old box. He put it on Mrs Underhill’s knees. Slowly, with hands that shook slightly, the old lady ran her fingers over the dull metal surface. She was smiling and her eyes were very bright…

Joe inserted the key into the lock and turned it carefully. Hannah lifted the lid and they both peered inside. There was a piece of faded silk under the lid…

The old lady pulled back the cloth. Underneath were dozens of buttons.

‘Buttons!’ exclaimed Joe in surprise. ‘Only buttons.’

But every button tells a story, as the children were to discover. And so began a winter of storytelling, as Mrs Underhill related the events behind her extraordinary collection. From the Tudor button, originally lost in the children’s own home, to the whalebone button from the coast of New England the children hear some exciting stories. At the end they experience their own adventure, find a button and begin their own collection.