100 Dresses

Estes, Eleanor. Hundred Dresses. New York: Scholastic Book Services, 1944.

Despite being published in war-torn 1944 100 Dresses is a book that should be read over and over again. It could be taught in school today and well into the future. It is a pretty typical story of bullying no matter what the year, decade or era. Children of all ages can be cruel. Period. They don’t think about what they are saying nor do they think about the consequences of their words.

Everyone reviews 100 Dresses as a story about poor, shy, Polish-American Wanda Petronski but I see 100 Dresses as being about a girl named Maddie, torn between doing the right thing and being friends with the most popular girl in school. Wanda is a central character, I agree. With her strange name and quiet ways, she is the subject of ridicule when she announces she owns 100 dresses. This is obviously a lie when she wears the same faded, and frayed blue dress to school everyday. Right away this makes her a target. Maddie’s best friend Peggy attacks this lie by asking detailed questions about the fictional dresses intentionally making Wanda squirm. Meanwhile Maddie stands by, witness to the taunting but says nothing. She doesn’t dare stand up for Wanda for fear of putting herself in Peggy’s cross hairs. She understands her friendship with Peggy to be conditional. Maddie knows that the bullying is wrong but can’t stand up for Wanda. In the end Wanda’s father moves the family away to avoid more ridicule. While this wouldn’t happen in today’s society (I believe most parents would tell their child to “get over it”) the bullying is as real as ever.

I didn’t have a favorite passage but I loved the illustrations.

BookLust Twist: From More Book Lust in the chapter called “Best for Boys and Girls” (p 22).

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