Has a Child You Cared For Been a Vicitm of Bullying? Review of "Oliver Button Is a Sissy"

Weekly Trip to the Library for Nannies and Au Pairs

In New Jersey (NJ) the law, known as the Anti-Bullying Bill of Rights, became effective this September. The Anti-Bullying Law is considered the toughest legislation against bullying in the nation. Each NJ school must designate an antibullying specialist to investigate complaints; each district must, in turn, have an antibullying coordinator; and the State Education Department will evaluate every effort, posting grades on its Web site. Superintendents said that educators who failed to comply could lose their licenses.

Click here for some sobering statistics on bullying.

Below is a great book review by Elizabeth Kennedy to help start the discussion about bullying with children.

Oliver Button is a Sissy by Tomie dePaola

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 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 other 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!”

I love Oliver Button Is a Sissy. Since it was first published in 1979, parents and teachers have shared this picture book with children from four to 14. It helps children to get the message it’s important for them to do what’s right for them despite teasing and other 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 I like best about Oliver Button Is a Sissyis that it is a good story that engages children’s interest. It is well written, with wonderful complementary illustrations. I highly recommend it, particularly for four- to eight-year-olds. I also recommend that elementary and middle school teachers include the book in any discussion of bullies and bullying. (Harcourt Brace & Company, 1979. ISBN: 9780152578527)

What books for kids or teens about bullies and bullying do you recommend?


  1. I friend of my charge was being bullied by text and emails. The parents kept the emails and texts but I don't think they told the parents of the child. The boy had texted and emailed he was going to "kill" the boy. Of course he's not going to, but it's mean and it's being a bully. The mother was telling me this and I don't think she even told the school. It's hard to know what to do. But, she should have told the parents of the boy and the school because better to nip it in the bud now before it gets out of control. It's illegal for adults to make threats so kids must learn now.

  2. Little girls are brutal. As little as kindergarten she was coming home crying.some girls are sensitive too so the tiniest remark upsets them for a long time.

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