The Hundred Dresses
Author: Eleanor Estes
Illustrator: Louis Slobodkin
Grade Level Equivalent:
Guided Reading Level:
Character and Values, Prejudice and Tolerance Experiences, School Life, Understanding Self and Others, Bullying Experiences
...for Maddie, this business of asking Wanda every day how many dresses and how many hats and how many this and that she had was bothering her. Maddie was poor herself. She usually wore somebody's hand-me-down clothes. Thank goodness, she didn't live up on Boggins Heights or have a funny name.
In this Newbery Honor Book, a young girl comes to terms with the effect that the teasing of her friends has had on a shy classmate. Though Maddie feels increasingly uncomfortable with the way the other girls — led by her best friend, Peggy — joke with Wanda, she doesn't have the courage to do anything about it. Then one day Wanda stops coming to school. Maddie can't shake a bad feeling about Wanda's absence, but she pushes it aside, preferring instead to think about the drawing contest, which she is sure Peggy will win.
On the day the winner is to be announced, the girls enter the class to see the walls covered in one hundred brilliantly colored drawings — each of a beautiful, unique dress. Here, at last, are Wanda's hundred dresses, but though she has won the contest, she will not be coming back to class to accept her medal. A letter has come from Wanda's father, saying that they are moving to the city, where having a different name is not so unusual and won't incur such cruel treatment. In the days that follow, Maddie and Peggy try to apologize to Wanda for what they've done, but they learn that deciding you want to make amends doesn't always mean that you can.
For more than 50 years, Eleanor Estes' story of kindness, compassion, and standing up for what is right has resonated with young readers. The author captures the deeply felt moral dilemmas of childhood, without simplification, understanding that such personal standoffs can be equally poignant for the teased or the tormentor. Wispy, evocative, color sketches by Caldecott Medalist Louis Slobodkin echo the often wistful tone of this time-proven classic.