Oliver Button Is a Sissy
Tomi dePaola ~ Harcourt, 1979
The first year after I moved from NYC to Texas, my husband and I went to the county fair a few towns over. It had been years since I'd spent any real time in small town America, and a lifetime since I'd grown up in it back in South Carolina. When I was little, it was common to hear someone called hurtful names, but my mother was an active human rights advocate and always taught us to do right by people and stand up to our friends when their words were out of line. I'll never forget the cheerleader my mother made walk a mile beside the car after the girl used a racial slur on the way home from an out-of-town game. My mother is an artist, and from the time I was wee all my role models seemed to come from different walks of life and our door was always open to anyone and everyone. But still... I remember what school was like for kids who were different. (Including myself.)
So, on that day a few years back when my husband and I stood on the sidewalk of mainstreet USA, we were surprised to see a rather extravagant and fabulous-looking young man leading the ladies on the high school drill squad. He wore a brightly colored rainbow necklace, and twirled his flag with abandon right along side the good-old-boys in the FFA driving their vintage tractors. I was floored, and later that night at the country fair dance was happy to see that boy not shunned and standing alone, but encircled with a ton of friends, dancing and having the time of his life... as it should be. Though I know this sort of openmindedness doesn't exist everywhere, it is certainly a brave new world we live in... and though in my heart of hearts I hope a book such as this is no longer needed and necessary, I still think it might bring some comfort to at least one little boy or girl out there who feels as if they don't quite fit in.
Oliver Button was called a sissy. He didn't like to do things that boys are supposed to do. Instead, he liked to walk in the woods and play jump rope. He liked to read and draw pictures. He even liked to play with paper dolls. And Oliver Button liked to play dress-up. He would go into the attic and put on costumes. Then he would sing and dance and make believe he was a movie star. "Oliver," said his papa. "Don't be such a sissy!" Go out and play baseball or football or basketball. Any kind of ball!"
Ahhh, now there's the rub. Oliver isn't what everyone expects him to be. His parents, the other kids at school. It's not until the community puts on a talent show that his star really begins to shine. Though he doesn't take home first prize, he gets something even better, acceptance. And to be accepted for who we really are, it's that what everyone wants in the end? A dear, sweet book from a dear, sweet man. Ten thumbs up Tomie.
The Wuggie Norple Story
Pancakes for Breakfast