Originally published 2016-11-09: Schoolchildren learn a valuable lesson about bullying in The Hundred Dresses
Almost every night before my children go to bed, I read to them. Sometimes it’s part of a chapter book, and others it’s a full book. I get these books from many different places: book stores, yard sales, thrift stores, and more. Why don’t I just buy them all from Amazon or another book seller? I love finding hidden gems, old stories or new that have something special to offer that your typical Walmart-bought fare doesn’t have.
That’s not to say all books from typical retailers are bland and carbon-copied. I’ve found some great ones online or at stores. (See the review I did for I Like My Brown Skin Because… for an example of an amazing book for children I found online.)
But sometimes you can’t beat the great deals and unique secondhand finds. Today’s book review is of a title I found at a Goodwill store called The Hundred Dresses.
Eleanor Estes’s The Hundred Dresses won a Newbery Honor in 1945 and has never been out of print since.
At the heart of the story is Wanda Petronski, a Polish girl in a Connecticut school who is ridiculed by her classmates for wearing the same faded blue dress every day. Wanda claims she has one hundred dresses at home, but everyone knows she doesn’t and bullies her mercilessly. The class feels terrible when Wanda is pulled out of the school, but by that time it’s too late for apologies.
Maddie, one of Wanda’s classmates, ultimately decides that she is “never going to stand by and say nothing again.”
Though it was written in the 1940s, The Hundred Dresses is a timeless story of children learning the meaning of compassion, understanding, and coming to the aid of another.
Though Wanda Petronski is the name you see in the description, this is really the story of Maddie, the best friend of the girl who starts teasing Wanda in the first place. Maddie knows what it’s like to be poor, but she can’t bring herself to stand up for Wanda.
Why? Because she’s afraid if she stands on Wanda’s side, she, too, will become an object of ridicule.
This story made a whole lot of sense in a lot of ways. It’s about bullying – how it makes others feel, and what not to do if you see someone being bullied. By the end of the story, Maddie has learned that standing by is not the answer, but she will never be able to forgive herself for helping to drive Wanda away.
The Hundred Dresses by Eleanor Estes gets five of five stars for being an easy, meaningful read that taught my children a valuable lesson on bullying and standing up for what you believe in.