Title: The Hundred Dresses
Author: Eleanor Estes
Major Themes: Mocking, School, Teasing
Synopsis: When Maddie becomes uncomfortable with the way her friend Peggy is treating the Polish girl in their school, will she be able to make things right?
Though it was first published in 1944, The Hundred Dresses has quite a message for children today. I have now read it aloud to my children four times, and was impressed again with this reading at the way Eleanor Estes was able to bring out a lesson in the way we treat others, in a lovely story.
The story mainly happens in Maddie’s thoughts. Her friend Peggy delights in teasing a Polish girl who is in their class. Wanda Petronski told Peggy once that she had “a hundred dresses, all lined up in my closet”, and Peggy, who knew very well that Wanda only had one dress, loved to ask Wanda every morning on the way to school about her hundred dresses. Wanda stuck to her story, describing the various beautiful dresses in detail. Now, Wanda has been absent from school for several days, and Maddie is thinking, uncomfortably, about the way they have been teasing her. She starts hoping that Wanda will show up again so they can make things right. Will they ever see Wanda again? Will Peggy come to the same point Maddie has arrived at?
The Hundred Dresses shows very plainly how we are affected by teasing and mocking. Although short and simple, it is a powerful tale about interpersonal relationships. This is definitely a book that will stay on my shelf and be read aloud again every few years.
WARNING: Once, the term Polack is used (page 48) and Peggy uses the word “gee” on page 51.
Read Aloud—Ages 5 – 8, Family Read Alouds
Reading Independently—Ages 7 – 9, 8 – 12