Brina's Reviews > The Hundred Dresses

The Hundred Dresses by Eleanor Estes
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bookshelves: middle-grade-kids, classics

The Hundred Dresses is Eleanor Estes' 1945 Newberry Award Winning classic geared toward middle grade readers. The book is still relevant these 70 years later because it touches on important concepts like bullying, peer pressure, and racial discrimination. In a letter to readers at the beginning of the book, Estes' daughter tells us that the book had been based on events in her mother's own life.
Wanda Petronski is a Polish immigrant who lives in a one room house in the poor section of town with her father and brother. The rest of the children are WASP whose families have seemed to have lived in the town for years. When Wanda shows up one day in her shoddy yet clean blue dress, the class queen Peggy and sidekick Maggie start teasing her. Oh this girl has one hundred different dresses all lined up in her closet, oh really. Peggy is the instigator while Maggie stands quietly by and allows the taunting to occur. Internally, however, Maggie does not condone this behavior because she wears handmedown clothes and does not want to be the next kid taunted should Peggy stop focusing on Wanda.
Later the class at school has a drawing contest. Wanda wins- she has drawn all one hundred dresses and her artwork reveals her inner voice. Immediately the rest of the class feels horrible that they ever teased her in the first place. Yet Wanda's father decided to move to the big city where there were many immigrants so his children would no longer be singled out and ridiculed by their classmates. Peggy and Maggie want to apologize to Wanda, but how, now that she has moved away?
Although 70 years old, this book is timeless. Last year it was one of the monthly reads for kids at our public library. I feel like all middle grade (2-5) classes should read this in class and then have a poignant class discussion about peer pressure, teasing, etc. A 4.5 star wonderful read with sparkling illustrations to accompany the poignant text. Highly recommended.
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Reading Progress

April 14, 2016 – Started Reading
April 14, 2016 – Shelved
April 14, 2016 – Shelved as: to-read
April 14, 2016 – Shelved as: middle-grade-kids
April 14, 2016 – Shelved as: classics
April 15, 2016 – Finished Reading

Comments Showing 1-24 of 24 (24 new)

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Brina Thanks Andrea. I got because it was recommended to me for author letter E for a challenge. It piqued my curiosity and I'm so glad I picked it up.

message 3: by Rosa (new)

Rosa Wonderful review, Brina! I'll be reading this to a 2nd grade class after teaching a lesson on compassion.

Brina Rosa I hope your class enjoys it. I really feel that this should be mandatory reading for elementary school classes.

message 5: by Monica (new)

Monica This is one of my favorite children's story. Endearing and pwerful in its simplicity.

Brina Monica it really is. I have read a number of powerful children's books this year that it has been tricky deciding which ones are 5 stars.

message 7: by Caren (new)

Caren You are right, Brina. This book IS timeless.

Ellie Thanks Brina for a great review! It made me rethink and reread the book. I changed my rating to 4 stars.

Thanks again for awakening me to the power of this story and its many delights.

message 9: by Carol (new)

Carol I am certain your review will gain new readers for this wonderful book.

Kelly ... I have never read this book -- I will now. Thank you.

Brina Thank you Caren, Ellie, Carol, and Kelly. I hope this review and others gains new readers for the book also.

message 12: by Sharyl (new)

Sharyl Oh, I love this book! Thank you for reminding me--great review.

Brina Sharyl, such a touching book, thanks.

Brina Thanks Maddie :)

Carol She's So Novel꧁꧂ This book sounds wonderful!

Laura Harrison This is one of my all time favorite books. It rarely is on a school reading list any more but it should be. The Hundred Dresses touches on so many issues that are relevant today. A true classic.

message 17: by May (new)

May Thank you for the review. I intend to find the book for my granddaughter !!

message 18: by Lynn (new) - added it

Lynn This is new to me. Thank you for sharing. I have a granddaughter who will love this!

Laura Harrison Lynn wrote: "This is new to me. Thank you for sharing. I have a granddaughter who will love this!"

It does have sad overtones. Please be aware of this. You may want to read it together.

Brina Thanks Carol, Laura, May, and Lynn. Laura, it has definitely become one of my new favorite kids books.

Laura Harrison Brina wrote: "Thanks Carol, Laura, May, and Lynn. Laura, it has definitely become one of my new favorite kids books."

That is great! It was illustrated by the amazing Louis Slobodkin. A beautiful, sensitive book.

message 22: by Jean (new)

Jean Wonderful! There are many adults (some quite -uh - prominent) who could benefit from reading this story as well.

Laura Harrison Every time I read this book I shed a tear. The cruelty of children to their peers never ceases to amaze me. Although the author went on enjoy much success, childhood taunting never quite leaves you. I hope teachers take notice and use this book as a learning tool. I worry that it is being forgotten.

message 24: by D. (new)

D. Thankyou for this review. WHen I was 8, I read The Hundred Dresses and was moved by the message about shaming, and imagination (I actually came away thinking Wanda didn't HAVE those dresses, but had the more valuable thing- a sense of imagination and ability to paint what, in her heart, she thought she had). I adored the author E. Estes, but didn't realize till I was over 60 that she'd written this. So, looking online it says Estes wrote about this since, in her childhood she was "Maggie" and was wore hand-me-downs from Peggy, and when her classmate (the Wanda in the story) was teased, she quietly stood by without saying the teasing was wrong.
This whole scenario has overtones of the case of the Jews in Nazi germany. Yes, I know these are children and didn't physically push around Wanda, but there are (distant)parallels, as the Polish girl, Wanda is shamed until she's driven out of school, practically. It was a sad book in a way and, with Laura H. above, I think if an adult had read it with me, I'd have benefited.

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