The Hundred Dresses
This Newbery Honor chapter book by Eleanor Estes was first published in 1944 with illustrations by artist Louis Slobodkin. The story follows a young girl named Maddie who witnesses her classmates ridiculing fellow student Wanda Petronski, whose one faded dress and Polish heritage set her apart from the other students.
Estes based the story on a real-life situation she witnessed as a child. Through The Hundred Dresses, she shares the lessons she learned from that encounter and created the ending she wished had happened.
Sometimes stories with character-building lessons can be didactic and over-moralizing. They can lack restraint by simply telling you the lesson you’re meant to learn. They’re practically holding a neon sign telling you the moral of the story just in case you didn’t get it.
Not so with this one. The Hundred Dresses shares a powerful lesson with the reader gently and quietly. In fact, it’s more powerful because it shares it that way. In a handful of chapters, you walk through the experience yourself and understand.
We highly recommend owning this one and reading it together, whether your child is 6 or 16.
About the Author:
Eleanor Estes (1906-1988) grew up in West Haven, Connecticut, which she renamed Cranbury for her classic stories about the Moffat and Pye families. A children’s librarian for many years, she launched her writing career with the publication of The Moffats in 1941. Two of her outstanding books about the Moffats—Rufus M. and The Middle Moffat—were awarded Newbery Honors, as was her short novel The Hundred Dresses. She won the Newbery Medal for Ginger Pye. Read more about her here.
A Few Reviews:
“As a teacher, I recommend this book to boys and girls alike. I hold it up to the class and tell them I will read a little bit of it to them. As always, the boys say “Yuck!” or cringe. Everyone thinks this is a story about a fashion show judging by its cover. Next, I tell them it’s about bullying. Then, they all stop and stare. By the time I finish reading the first chapter, and I tell them we have to go on to the next lesson, ALL of the students are begging me to continue reading! Even the boys! I do have to note, however, that there are some things in it that may need to be explained since it was written so long ago (1940’s). For example, I usually have to explain about the significance of the snide remark from a student/narrator made about Wanda having mud on her shoes. She comes from the “poor side of town” where the streets aren’t paved and has to walk to school everyday; there isn’t a school bus to take her to school. Or explain the reason why Wanda’s dress isn’t properly ironed (no mother to show her how to do it). But please do NOT let that keep you from purchasing it! It is a wonderful opportunity for the students to learn about the “culture” of the times! Students are enthralled by learning about those times through these discussions and love to compare and contrast it with their lives! I noticed some reviews said it was boring but parents and teachers might have missed the opportunity to have a wonderful discussion as I mentioned above. Most importantly, we discuss how the importance of Forgiveness is mentioned in the book not just the bullying.” -Amazon Reviewer Gscee