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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.
From School Library Journal
Teresa Bateman, Brigadoon Elementary School, Federal Way, WA
Copyright 1999 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to the Audio Cassette edition.
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 used this book to teach a lesson on bullying from [...] Great story. Great lesson!Published 9 days ago by tyanna567
(spoiler alerts) This book didn't have a "fun" subject matter. It was like reading an 80 page pamphlet about why it's not nice to bully. Read morePublished 18 days ago by Bright Side
It seems so simple, but most adults don't even get this simple and profound lesson. Beautifully structured and thoughtfully organized.Published 27 days ago by Amazon Customer
This is an EXTREMELY short book for beginning readers. It shows the effects of bullying to children, but there is absolutely no story or plot involved. Read morePublished 1 month ago by a reader
Have read this book before and was delighted. I bought this for my new granddaughter to begin her collection. A must have!Published 1 month ago by Sandra J White
Purchased this book for my nine year old daughter. She really enjoyed reading it. The story helped her understand that it is not right to tease people.Published 2 months ago by Nathaniel S. Tilghman