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by Louis Slobodkin,Eleanor Estes
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Literature & Fiction
  • Author:
    Louis Slobodkin,Eleanor Estes
  • ISBN:
  • ISBN13:
  • Genre:
  • Publisher:
    HMH Books for Young Readers; 1-Simul edition (September 1, 2004)
  • Pages:
    96 pages
  • Subcategory:
    Literature & Fiction
  • Language:
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    1511 kb
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    1783 kb
  • DJVU format
    1957 kb
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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." This powerful, timeless story has been reissued with a new letter from the author’s daughter Helena Estes, and with the Caldecott artist Louis Slobodkin’s original artwork in beautifully restored color.

As a teacher, I recommend this book to boys and girls alike. I hold it up to the class and tell them I will read a little bit of it to them. As always, the boys say "Yuck!" or cringe. Everyone thinks this is a story about a fashion show judging by its cover. Next, I tell them it's about bullying. Then, they all stop and stare. By the time I finish reading the first chapter, and I tell them we have to go on to the next lesson, ALL of the students are begging me to continue reading! Even the boys! I do have to note, however, that there are some things in it that may need to be explained since it was written so long ago (1940's). For example, I usually have to explain about the significance of the snide remark from a student/narrator made about Wanda having mud on her shoes. She comes from the "poor side of town" where the streets aren't paved and has to walk to school everyday; there isn't a school bus to take her to school. Or explain the reason why Wanda's dress isn't properly ironed (no mother to show her how to do it). But please do NOT let that keep you from purchasing it! It is a wonderful opportunity for the students to learn about the "culture" of the times! Students are enthralled by learning about those times through these discussions and love to compare and contrast it with their lives! I noticed some reviews said it was boring but parents and teachers might have missed the opportunity to have a wonderful discussion as I mentioned above. Most importantly, we discuss how the importance of Forgiveness is mentioned in the book not just the bullying.
This book was recommended by a pediatrician as one he reads his children each year during the holidays. Though the book was written in the 1940s, the message of standing up against bullying resonates well in today's environment. My eight-year-old granddaughter was enthralled. My five-year-old granddaughter stayed with us through most of the story. I was in tears as I read. I can see us reading The Hundred Dresses every year.
In the Letter to Readers at the front of this book, Helen Estes, Eleanor Estes’ daughter, says that the book was inspired by a classmate of her mother’s when she was in school during World War I – making this story approximately a hundred years old now. However, the subject is not at all out of date. I’m pretty sure there are still children in school all over the country – if not the world – who do not have many nice clothes to wear to school and whose classmates make fun of them because of it.

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.
This is a great book. I read it to my daughter (age 6). It's more appropriate for boys and girls from 7-99. The writing is really good and interspersed with beautiful illustrations. Socio-economic and immigrant issues are included and deftly addressed. What I like most about it is that it addresses bullying from a different perspective: The narrator is the best friend of the bully (a girl who is a cruel queen bee). More often than not, more kids are the bystanders of bullying--silent and unsure of how to respond, in fear of the being the next target, etc. The canon of children's literature has lots bullies. This books addresses the responsibility of the bystanders. I'm going to get dramatic but I can't help it: The book reminds me of what Martin Niemöller, a Protestant pastor who criticized Hitler and spent seven years in concentration camps, wrote:

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.
Peggy and the girls tease Wanda when she claims to have a hundred dresses. It's clearly not true because she wears the same dress every day. Maddie feels badly about how mean they are, but does nothing. If she said something she might become the new target. But when Wanda and her family move because of how they have been treated, Maddie makes up her mind to never again stand by and do nothing.

This is an excellent teaching tool to use when discussing how we should treat those that may be different from us.
one life
This children's book (that every adult should read) hit two areas. One: Bullying has been around a long long time. Two: The English vocabulary is truly a dummied down version of what it used to be. So so sad to know that past generations could read this book and children the same age/grade level in today's public schools could not. It's a great book to read to children, draws out wonderful discussion about several areas in the public arena today and, for those parents who will take the time to do it, a super way to teach some vocabulary.