'Oliver Button Is a Sissy' by Tomie dePaola

"Oliver Button is a Sissy" book cover art.

Photo from Amazon

"Oliver Button Is a Sissy," a children's picture book written and illustrated by Tomie dePaola, is the story of a boy who stands up to bullies not by fighting, but by staying true to himself. The book is particularly recommended for ages 4-8, but it has also been used successfully with upper elementary and middle school kids in conjunction with discussions about bullying.

The Story of 'Oliver Button Is a Sissy'

The story, based on the childhood experiences of Tomie dePaola, is a simple one. Oliver Button doesn’t like sports like the other boys do. He likes to read, draw pictures, dress up in costumes, and sing and dance. Even his father calls him a "sissy" and tells him to play ball. But Oliver isn’t good at sports and he isn’t interested.

His mother tells him he needs to get some exercise, and when Oliver mentions he likes to dance, his parents enroll him in Ms. Leah’s Dancing School. His father says it is, "Especially for the exercise." Oliver loves to dance and loves his shiny new tap shoes. However, it hurts his feelings when the other boys make fun of him. One day when he arrives at school, he sees that someone has written on the school wall, "Oliver Button Is a sissy."

Despite the teasing and bullying, Oliver continues dance lessons. In fact, he increases his practice time in hopes of winning the big talent show. When his teacher encourages the other students to attend and root for Oliver, the boys in his class whisper, "Sissy!" Although Oliver hopes to win and does not, both of his parents are very proud of his dancing ability.

After losing the talent show, Oliver is reluctant to go back to school and be teased and bullied again. Imagine his surprise and delight when he walks into the schoolyard and discovers that someone has crossed out the word "sissy" on the school wall and added a new word. Now the sign reads, "Oliver Button is a star!"

Author and Illustrator Tomie dePaola

Tomie dePaola is known for his children's picture books and his chapter books. He's the author and/or illustrator of more than 200 children's books. These include Patrick, Patron Saint of Ireland and a number of books, including board books of Mother Goose rhymes, among many others.

Book Recommendation

"Oliver Button Is a Sissy" is a wonderful book. Since it was first published in 1979, parents and teachers have shared this picture book with children from four to fourteen. It helps children to get the message that it's important for them to do what’s right for them despite teasing and bullying. Children also begin to understand how important it is not to bully others for being different. Reading the book to your child is an excellent way to start a conversation about bullying.

However, what's best about "Oliver Button Is a Sissy" is that it is a good story that engages children's interest. It is well written, with wonderful complementary illustrations. It is highly recommended, particularly for kids ages 4-8, but also for elementary and middle school teachers to include in any discussion of bullies and bullying. (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 1979. ISBN: 9780156681407)

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Kennedy, Elizabeth. "'Oliver Button Is a Sissy' by Tomie dePaola." ThoughtCo, Aug. 25, 2020, thoughtco.com/oliver-button-is-a-sissy-by-tomie-depaola-627182. Kennedy, Elizabeth. (2020, August 25). 'Oliver Button Is a Sissy' by Tomie dePaola. Retrieved from https://www.thoughtco.com/oliver-button-is-a-sissy-by-tomie-depaola-627182 Kennedy, Elizabeth. "'Oliver Button Is a Sissy' by Tomie dePaola." ThoughtCo. https://www.thoughtco.com/oliver-button-is-a-sissy-by-tomie-depaola-627182 (accessed March 31, 2023).