Friday, May 3, 2013

"The Hundred Dresses" Book Review

The Hundred Dress - Written by Eleanor Estes and Illustrated by Louis Slobodkin

The Hundred Dresses is about a little motherless girl, Wanda with the different sounding Polish surname, who wears the same faded, yet clean, blue dress each day to school. One day she quietly says she has one hundred dress at home, possibly as a way to try and fit in. The other girls obviously don't believe her and make fun of her by asking her about them each day. Maddie's best friend Peggy is the main instigator of it all, and so Maddie simply stands by and does nothing as she secretly worries that because she is also poor that the teasing could just as easily shift to her. Even so it all sits very uneasily on young Maddie's shoulders and conscience. She wants to ask her best friend to stop asking Wanda about her dresses but she simply lacks the courage.

Peggy by all accounts was not a cruel girl "she protected small children from bullies. And she cried for hours if she saw an animal mistreated". She never saw that she herself was being a bully, Wanda was the one who had told a lie, and Peggy never made her cry. I like that the characters have more to them as a bully is not always a full-time bully. Sometimes people do things that are bullying and this appears to be the case here.

Wanda suddenly disappears with her father and brother to a big city, where they hope to be happier and accepted. Her father rights in his letter to her school "Now we move away to big city. No more holler Polack. No more ask why funny name. Plenty of funny names in the big city."

The two girls, Maddie and Peggy, attempt to make amends but as she has gone already they don't really. The ending whilst not ideal, is perfect the way it is written, as sometimes in life we don't get the chance to say we are sorry and make amends or we simply don't come right out and say it properly (and push it away and pretend it never happened). These are lessons we have to learn from and also live with, and young Maddie learns a valuable and life long lesson.

Some stories are timeless ... this is one of them! It was first published in 1944 but nothing about it comes across as old fashioned or out-dated. I think this should be required reading by children, most especially girls as it has a subtle form or bullying which is often more used by girls.  Age wise I would say it is best read by children who can understand what was going on or as a read aloud where it can be pointed out and discussed. It has about about 80 pages so can easily be read in one sitting. It is also a slightly sad book (I am sure a few people may relate to a character or two)  and I could feel my throat tighten up in a few places towards the end.

When I asked The Fashionista what she thought about the book, she said "it was OK but I wouldn't read it again. It was a bit sad and not really adventurous".

I confess I was a bit disappointed when she said that and then she said "you know it was sort of like this" and she showed me a poster that has to decorate that she received this week from the church school holiday program ... "Reach out. Accept each other. Jesus did it. Now you do it!" (Romans 15:7) 

Maybe I am not so disappointed after all!

1 comment :

  1. Lisa, the ending of the book might not have been ideal, but I like the ending of your post. Actually someone else also recommended this book on my blog recently. It's one of those books I've known about for a long time but never read. Maybe it's time to hunt down a copy. Thank you for the review!


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