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The Hundred Dresses Paperback – September 1, 2004
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"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
About the Author
Eleanor Estes (1906-1988) grew up in West Haven, Connecticut, which she renamed Cranbury for her classic stories about the Moffat and Pye families. A children’s librarian for many years, she launched her writing career with the publication of The Moffats in 1941. Two of her outstanding books about the Moffats—Rufus M. and The Middle Moffat—were awarded Newbery Honors, as was her short novel The Hundred Dresses. She won the Newbery Medal for Ginger Pye.
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In the story, Wanda Petronski is just such a girl. Every day she wears the same faded blue dress to school. One day the other girls are admiring another girl’s new dress and discussing dresses they have or would like to have when Wanda comes up and says quietly to Peggy, the most popular girl in the class that she has a hundred dresses at home. Peggy announces this to the other girls, and from then on she and her best friend Maddie make a practice of asking Wanda about her hundred dresses as often as they get a chance.
Maddie is not completely comfortable with this as she too is poor and must wear hand-me-down clothes to school. It occurs to her that the other girls could as easily go from teasing Wanda to teasing her instead. But she never says anything.
One day Wanda does not show up at school. Her father sends a letter to the school that his children will not be back. They are moving to the big city where there are plenty of people with funny names.
But in the meantime, Wanda has left a hundred dresses at school – a hundred dresses that she has drawn for the class’s drawing contest.
Too late it occurs to Maddie and Peggy to try to apologize for teasing Wanda. When they go to her house to see her, they find the family has already gone.
First they came for the Socialists, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a Socialist.
Then they came for the Trade Unionists, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a Trade Unionist.
Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a Jew.
Then they came for me—and there was no one left to speak for me.
It's a powerful read.
This is an excellent teaching tool to use when discussing how we should treat those that may be different from us.