Summary: Oliver Button Is A Sissy is a book about a boy named Oliver whose interests are completely different from the other boys in his class. Instead of playing sports like the other boys, Oliver enjoys jump roping, playing with dolls, and especially singing and dancing. When Oliver’s parents realize how much he loves to dance, they decide to send him to dancing school. Everything seems great until the other students in the class find out about Oliver’s love of dancing. They constantly tease him and call him a “sissy.” Despite the teasing, Oliver continues practicing and even enters a talent show. Oliver’s teacher encourages the students to attend the show and they all show up to watch. In the end, Oliver does not win first place, but he impresses his fellow classmates and gains their respect. He was no longer a “sissy;” instead he was a “star.”
Reflection: This book brings up the subject of gender stereotypes and the pressure that society places on conforming to these stereotypes. What’s great about this book is that it presents readers with a strong character who is able to overcome the negativity associated with not conforming to gender stereotypes. It gives readers the message that it is okay to be different and that they should pursue their interests regardless of what other people may say about these interests. In this book, Oliver Button continues to do what he loves to do—dance—even though he is often teased about it.
How I Would Use This Book/Curriculum Units: This book can be a part of the community-building process at the start of the school year. As students learn about each other and their interests, they are also learning that it is acceptable to be different from each other, since differences add to the uniqueness of every individual. Moreover, students learn that it is acceptable to be different in the sense that they can pursue any interests even if others say it is inappropriate for their gender. Additionally, this book can also be used for an author study on Tomie dePaolo. Students can compare different Tomie dePaolo books and develop their inferencing skills by coming up with conclusions about Tomie dePaolo’s writing style and/or his personality as a child, as Tomie dePaolo’s books are often about past events in his life.
Domains of Social Justice:
1) Self-Love and Acceptance: Students learn to accept themselves the way they are, which also includes accepting the interests they have and pursuing them, even if their interests are contrary to what is perceived as appropriate for their gender.
2) Respect for Others: Students learn about each other’s interests which may end up being different from theirs. Despite these differences, students should still learn to accept others for the way they are.
3) Exploring Issues of Social Justice: Students will learn about the issue of gender stereotypes and whether they accurately represent people.
5) Taking Social Action: Students will make active efforts to get to know other students and also participate in helping others look beyond gender stereotypes.