The Mute Button is a children’s book. But that doesn’t mean it’s not a good book, neigh a great book. It deals with a lot of issues that start developing in children at the age of nine or ten and persist for a long part of their lives if they don’t deal with it, such as their crave for love and identity or not doing something because someone is better at them at it. These are some of the issues that Ellie Irving talks about using Anthony Button, the lead character and various other issues, such as feeling left out or neglect using her other characters. At the heart of this book is the quest of a young, 10 year, 2 month and 26 day boy to find himself, his identity and be someone better.
The story focuses around Anthony Button, the 10 year child of his parents and has four siblings, Robbie, his elder guitar playing brother, his little brother Jacob who is incredibly smart and little sister Susie who is an amazing actress and his littlest sister Lucy, who is just born, and by Anthony’s accord, more talented than he will ever be.
Anthony is an average 10 year old. He has no special talents, he talks a lot (and everyone asks him to shut up) and loves cheese. Every chapter begins with Anthony relating to a type of cheese because that is how he feels. Anthony has a loving family of a lot of people, working and busy parents who are not always able to devote him enough time and a whole set of siblings who have found out what they love. Anthony lives in his own self-indulgent world where he is perfect and nice and always marginalised and not loved enough and whatever mean things he does has a valid reason, and does not want to change to be better because he believes he is perfect and people should match up to him. All in all, almost every person at some point of time, be it ten, eleven, sometime in their teens.
One day, after a certain incident, Anthony decides to stop speaking, in order to gain attention after neglect by his family. As stated finely in the book, the “Mute Button” is switched on for Anthony and the most talkative boy becomes a mute machine. At first Anthony uses it to gain attention, then to get a good holiday for his family, but when he does finally get the holiday, he questions why he is doing it? Why would he be doing it? During this period, Anthony communicates exclusively using a notepad where he wrote down things to tell other people.
His parents make him go to a children’s psychiatrist to see what is wrong with him. The psychiatrist, Jess gives Anthony a journal to write whatever he is feeling, since he won’t talk about it.
The period of muteness sees Anthony transform from an attention seeking and indulgent boy to a mature person, an ideal person we would all like to be. Caring, mature, courageous, unafraid, understanding and respectful of what he has and most importantly, kind. The mantra that leads to this transformation is this phrase:
“At the core of ethics; a command that one try to imagine what it might be like to be someone else.” – Alain de Botton
This phrase is much needed advice not for children, but everybody else as well. How often do we come across a situation where we do not consider the other person’s opinion, because we are either too indulgent, too stressed, too prideful or simply too stupid. And how often are we mean to other people and not realising how they might feel.
This phrase is almost religious to Anthony after he encounters it, and is an important life lesson to all those reading the book. It’s beautiful to see in the book how Anthony realises how other people might feel or have felt when he was a selfish brat and did something wrong. And that sets off a bell in his heart and mind and he realises he must try to do things to make up for being bad to people and must always think how something could impact somebody negatively or simply how life is for another person and sympathise with them.
It’s beautiful, extremely beautiful to see Anthony coming to terms with himself and act like a mature adult we would like to be and helping people out and finding a grip on himself and realising what family means and what love is and how life should be. Happy, without any mean-ness.
This is a book anyone feeling a bit down on life should attempt to read. It’s 296 pages and due to the large font size, a breeze to read and is truly a treasure.
Do let me know how you found the recommendation, and if you’ve read the book, how did you like it?