Monday, October 08, 2018

The Hundred Dresses

The Hundred Dresses. Eleanor Estes. Illustrated by Louis Slobodkin. 1944/2004. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. 96 pages. [Source: Library]

First sentence: Today, Monday, Wanda Petronski was not in her seat. But nobody, not even Peggy and Madeline, the girls who started all the fun, noticed her absence. Usually Wanda sat in the next to the last seat in the last row in Room 13. She sat in the corner of the room where the rough boys who did not make good marks on their report cards sat; the corner of the room where there was more scuffling of feet, most roars of laughter when anything funny was said, and most mud and dirt on the floor.

Premise/plot: The heroine of Eleanor Estes' The Hundred Dresses is a young girl named Maddie. The book chronicles her awakening of conscience. Peggy and Maddie began "having fun" with Wanda Petronski several months before this chapter book opens. Fun. That's how Peggy sees it. And perhaps that's how Maddie viewed it the first few times. But lately Maddie has been thinking the "fun" they're having is wrong--is in fact unkind. But if she spoke up to Peggy, would Peggy listen to her and stop? Or would Peggy turn her back on her? Would Maddie lose her best friend?

"The fun" started when Wanda said she had a hundred dresses in her closet. Wanda--the girl who has worn the same dress every single day of the school year. Wanda--the girl with the funny last name. Wanda--the girl who lives on the wrong side of town. How could that Wanda really, truly have hundred dresses in her closet. She has to be lying, right?! If she's going to tell such a bold lie as that, is teasing her all that wrong?

Maddie comes to think it is. But her change of heart may be too late. Will Wanda ever know that Maddie is sorry for the way she's behaved?

My thoughts: I first read this one a few years ago. I think I love it even more now upon second reading. The book has a gentleness to it, but don't underestimate the power of meekness. This book has a message for young readers.

Wanda. By the time the book opens, Wanda has essentially already left school. We see her through Maddie's eyes--in a flashback of sorts. We see her through her artwork. We see her through her letter to the teacher. The impression I get of Wanda is that she's incredible, a girl worth knowing and befriending. For it seems that despite the teasing, she is willing to forgive. She's not angry. She's not bitter. She's not hateful. She's kind. Turning the other cheek, kind. The embodiment of the golden rule: "do unto others."

Maddie. This is a coming-of-age for Maddie. It is her character growth the book chronicles. Maddie was not "the instigator" of the bullying. She was a follower--a somewhat reluctant participant. But by the end of the book Maddie realizes that even observing "the fun" and standing by and doing nothing--saying nothing--is a wrongful act. Maddie realizes her own cowardice, her own weakness. She makes a resolution to change, to be a better person, to make amends, to never follow the crowd again, to always do what is right no matter what.

Peggy. This is the girl we know the least about. We know that she is one who first started teasing Wanda. But we don't know her heart--just her actions. Did she know it was wrong? Did she stop "the fun" only because Wanda moved away, or did she too experience a change of heart? I get the impression that she feels guilty, but not the impression that she's genuinely repentant and wanting to make amends. If Maddie wasn't so eager to make amends, would Peggy's guilty feeling last all that long? We just don't know. We can guess. But we can't know.

Have you read the Hundred Dresses? What did you think of it?!

© 2018 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

1 comments:

Constance M 6:28 PM  

I always enjoyed this author but The Hundred Dresses was not a favorite when I was a child; it seemed like nothing really happened. I like your perspective.

There is a chapter in Rufus M about his first library card that made a huge impression on me. I was somehow about to cite it in a graduate school economics paper which made me feel I was improving the entire field of a very dull subject.

Post a Comment

I'm always happy to hear from you! To help fight spam, comment moderation has been set up for posts older than two days. Feel free to ask me questions or ask for recommendations!

Review Policy

I am interested in reviewing books and audio books. This blog focuses on books written for middle grade on up (essentially 10 to a 110). I review middle grade fiction and young adult fiction (aka tween and teen).

I also review adult books.

I read in a variety of genres including realistic fiction, historical fiction, mystery, romance, science fiction, fantasy, literary fiction, and chick lit. (I've read one western to date.)

I read a few poetry books, a few short story collections, a few graphic novels, a few nonfiction books.

I am especially fond of:

  • Regency romances (including Austen prequels/sequels)
  • Historical fiction set in the Tudor dynasty
  • Historical fiction and nonfiction set during World War II
  • Jewish fiction/nonfiction
  • dystopias
  • apocalyptic fiction
  • science fiction (especially if it involves time travel and alternate realities)
  • fantasy
  • multicultural books and international books

I am not a fan of:

  • sports books
  • horse books
  • dog books if the dog dies (same goes with most pets actually except maybe fish)
  • westerns (if it's a pioneer story with women and children, then maybe)
  • extremely violent books with blood, blood, and more blood

I am more interested in strong characters, well-written, fleshed-out, human characters. Plot is secondary to me in a way. I have to care about the characters in order to care about the plot. That being said, compelling storytelling is something that I love. I love to become absorbed in what I'm reading.

If you're interested in sending me a review copy of your book, I'm happy to hear from you. Email me at laney_po AT yahoo DOT com.

You should know several things before you contact me:

1) I do not guarantee a review of your book. I am just agreeing to consider it for review.
2) I give all books at least fifty pages.
3) I am not promising anyone (author or publisher) a positive review in exchange for a review copy. That's not how I work.
4) In all of my reviews I strive for honesty. My reviews are my opinions--so yes, they are subjective--you should know my blog will feature both negative and positive reviews.
5) I do not guarantee that I will get to your book immediately. I've got so many books I'm trying to read and review, I can't promise to get to any one book in a given time frame.
6) Emailing me every other week to see if I've read your book won't help me get to it any faster. Though if you want to email me to check and see if it arrived safely, then that's fine!

Authors, publishers. I am interested in interviewing authors and participating in blog tours. (All I ask is that I receive a review copy of the author's latest book beforehand so the interview will be productive. If the book is part of a series, I'd like to review the whole series.) Contact me if you're interested.

Unique Visitors and Google PR Rank

Free PageRank Checker

My Blog List

(Old) Challenge Participants

Becky's Hosting These Challenges

100 Books Project: Fill in the Gaps

Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

  © Blogger template Newspaper III by Ourblogtemplates.com 2008

Back to TOP