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Literature / Oliver Button Is a Sissy

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Oliver Button Is a Sissy is a 1979 children's storybook by Tomie dePaola.

Oliver Button is a soft-spoken, gentle little boy who doesn't like to do the kinds of activities that boys are expected to do. Instead, he prefers to do quiet activities by himself — taking walks in the woods, reading, drawing, jumping rope, and especially dancing, singing and dressing up. Unfortunately, his male peers mock him for his interests, calling him a "sissy".

Nonetheless, Oliver continues to pursue his passions. Finally, he enters a neighborhood talent show, where he performs a spirited dance routine. Everyone is impressed by his skills, and his peers start to see him differently afterward.

Republished in 2017.

This story contains examples of:

  • All of the Other Reindeer: Oliver isn't very popular at school (especially among the boys) for being In Touch with His Feminine Side.
  • Black Dot Eyes: As per dePaola's style, none of the characters have visible sclerae or irises to their eyes.
  • Cheerful Child: Oliver is a very happy-go-lucky little boy, though he is visibly hurt when his peers tease him.
  • Determinator: Despite the fact that the guys keep bullying Oliver for going to dance classes, he still continues to learn and improve his dancing.
  • Full-Name Basis: The narration always calls Oliver Button by his full name. Most of the other characters call him by his full name too, for some reason.
  • "Gender-Normative Parent" Plot: Played with. Oliver's dad tries to persuade Oliver to play sports with the other neighborhood boys, even though he's not good at them. Nevertheless, he supports his son's decision to enroll in a dancing school, and congratulates him on his performance at the talent show. Taking both actions into account, it seems that Mr. Button's more worried about Oliver spending too much time doing activities by himself, rather than ashamed of his interests in and of themselves.
  • In Touch with His Feminine Side: Oliver Button is regarded as a "sissy" by his male peers because he likes to dress up, dance, sing, and (occasionally) make paper dolls.
  • Jerk with a Heart of Gold: Downplayed with Oliver's father. He comes across as a bit of a jerk when he tries to make his son do things he doesn't want to do, but he ends up supporting Oliver's decision to enroll in the dance class and comforts him when he loses the talent show.
  • Kids Are Cruel: The boys at Oliver's school bully him for his feminine interests and play catch with his shoes.
  • The One Guy: Oliver is the only boy in the dance class, all the other students are girls.
  • One of the Girls: Oliver, who attends a dance class that's full of girls. When the girls stick up for him, the boys comment that of course he's gonna have help from girls.
  • Orange/Blue Contrast: The book utilizes a grayed-down orange/blue palette.
  • Second Place Is for Winners: Oliver doesn't win first place at the talent show, but he gets something better. The day after, he goes to school and sees the wall with "Oliver Button Is a Sissy" written on it, only someone has crossed out the word "sissy" and written "star!".
  • So Proud of You: Oliver's dad quotes this trope name verbatim when he says he's proud of Oliver's performance in the talent show. Ms. Leah and Oliver's mother say they're proud of him, too.
  • Title Drop: The boys write "Oliver Button is a Sissy" on the side of the school.
  • Trying Not to Cry: It's mentioned that Oliver Button is fighting back tears when he loses the talent show.
  • Unnamed Parent: Oliver's parents are never addressed by name.
  • Wanted a Gender-Conforming Child: Oliver's father seems to be ashamed of the fact that the boy is In Touch with His Feminine Side, as he tells him that he shouldn't be a "sissy" and that he ought to play sports. In the end, though, he supports his son's decision to attend dancing school, and is genuinely proud of his performance at the talent show.