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.
Although this story is many decades old, it’s message is every bit as relevant today as when the book was first published. I had read the book of a couple of times before I heard an audio version and the difference was dramatic, to actually hear the taunting, teasing girls. Don’t think for a minute that just because this book is ‘about dresses’ that it wouldn’t apply to boys as well. Every reader will easily be able to imagine themselves at the brunt of the teasing. The lessons of kindness, acceptance, and even forgiveness.