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The Hundred Dresses Paperback – September 1, 2004
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Maddie, a girl who had stood by while Wanda was taunted about her dresses, feels sick inside: "True, she had not enjoyed listening to Peggy ask Wanda how many dresses she had in her closet, but she had said nothing.... She was a coward.... She had helped to make someone so unhappy that she had had to move away from town." Repentant, Maddie and her friend Peggy head up to Boggins Heights to see if the Petronskis are still there. When they discover the house is empty, Maddie despairs: "Nothing would ever seem good to her again, because just when she was about to enjoy something--like going for a hike with Peggy to look for bayberries or sliding down Barley Hill--she'd bump right smack into the thought that she had made Wanda Petronski move away." Ouch. This gentle Newbery Honor Book convincingly captures the deeply felt moral dilemmas of childhood, equally poignant for the teased or the tormentor. Louis Slobodkin, illustrator of the 1944 Caldecott Medalist Many Moons, brings his wispy, evocative, color-washed sketches to Eleanor Estes's time-proven classic about kindness, compassion, and standing up for what's right. (Ages 6 and older) --Karin Snelson --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
"Sensitive, intuitive, restrained . . . will take its place with the books that endure."--Saturday Review
"Written with rare intuition and pictured with warm sympathy and charm."--The Horn Book
"No young person . . . will ever forget it."--Book Week
Top Customer Reviews
I've noticed something about this book that many reviews (and many of the lesson plans I've read) seem to miss, and I think it's an important point: This isn't the story of Wanda Petronski. It's the story of Maddie, an ordinary person who quietly assents to evil and then must live with her conscience. It's very tough stuff for young readers (and older ones), both deep and dark. I remember my own daughters finding it to be rough going emotionally, because Maddie's epiphany comes when the possibility of redemption is past, leaving her only with regret. This is unusual in children's fiction (and adults'), where the norm is for the central character--the character with whom the reader identifies--to be granted a second chance to make the compassionate choice. Estes quite deliberately, and, I think, properly, gave the book a real-life ending, where understanding occurs after the moment of truth has irretrievably gone by, and we realize that the next step, the step that occurs after the end of the story, is for the character and, by extension, the reader, to decide how to live her life from that point on.
Wanda is not, as far as we know, a Jew, but this is nevertheless a Holocaust story, as well as a Civil Rights story, a story about tolerance and compassion but also a story about how evil flourishes when people of good will do not speak out.
Estes is kind enough to her characters to allow Wanda the spirit and determination to rise above the rejection of her classmates, and to allow her to gracefully (but incorrectly) attribute the best of motives to Maddie and Peggy. In a way, though, her nobility makes Maddie's enlightenment even more bitter.Read more ›
Worlds apart is Peggy, the popular rich girl in her class. After Wanda makes an attempt to fit into a conversation by talking about her beautiful dresses, Peggy begins what seems like a game to her and taunts Wanda daily in front of a crowd of classmates about all of the beautiful dresses in her closet.
Bridging their world is Maddie, Peggy's best friend. While she isn't isolated by a language barrier and has Peggy's unspoken social protection, she is uncomfortably aware that her poverty makes her more similar to Wanda than Peggy. While Maddie gratefully accepts Peggy's castoffs, she is terrified of the power Peggy's generosity gives her. The daily game of picking on Wanda continually hardens Maddie's uncomfortable vulnerability; she is keenly aware that speaking out in Wanda's defense could put her in Wanda's place.
The "truth" is that Wanda does have 100 dresses, just not the kind Peggy has. The moment where Wanda shyly makes her fateful declaration is possibly the most poignant in the whole book. Of course she must have known that people would wonder why someone with so many beautiful dresses would always wear the same shabby one. Did she naively, hopefully think that someone would ask her about them and maybe let her into their world? Instead, she was met with nasty assumptions and taunting.
The book ends on a melancholy note. Maddie (and perhaps Peggy) become better people as a result of what happens to Wanda and her family, but Maddie (and the reader) are haunted by Wanda's unkown fate. Like Maddie, we can only hope for the best.
Most Recent Customer Reviews
I love that the moral of this story still greatly applies today. My daughter, who was bullied herself, was really able to relate to Wanda. Read morePublished 14 hours ago by Kimberly Malone
I think the summaries stand for themselves. What remains key, though, is that the book offers an insightful critique of the pitfalls of conspicuous consumption and the role it... Read morePublished 2 days ago by m+m
This is an awesome book to read to your kids about bullying and being non-judgemental. Its a definite classic.Published 9 days ago by James & Sarah Schwartz
The coarsening of our culture can be easily compared to Peggy's treatment of Wanda and Maddie's struggle with conscience. Read morePublished 17 days ago by chehalis bearcat
I love the story but the cover came off already when I received it. The glue wasn't enough I guess. And for a cheap price, I didn't return it because really need it for school... Read morePublished 22 days ago by Amazon Customer
This was a wonderful book with a great message. My two children did not like the way it ended and wanted it to continue but I explained to them why it ended that way. Read morePublished 1 month ago by JennB