The 1945 Newbery Honor book by Eleanor Estes holds a place in classic children’s literature.
The Hundred Dresses is about Wanda and her hundred dresses that she tells her classmates are at home. Peggy and Maddie are two classmates who don’t believe that Wanda has that many dresses at home because she doesn’t wear them to school.
The plot plays on the exclusion of school children and Wanda’s inability to become a part of the Peggy and Maddie’s in – crowd.
The story ends when Wanda moves another to another town and Peggy and Maddie discover they feel bad she left. When Wanda sends them “Dresses” to their teacher, they feel bad because they realize Wanda liked them as friends. They are awed by the beautiful drawings of colorful dresses that Wanda had drawn. They decide to send her a letter explaining how beautiful the dresses are that Wanda drew and make amends through Wanda’s drawings.
Estes book is an age old story of children including each other. The poignancy of the book revolves around how the book is purely in the world of these characters. The pain of being teased, the joy of finding friends and realizing a friend has left is found and felt from each girl. There is no coaching from adults, which makes the book that more poignant and relates to children. Estes does a fantastic job of making the world exclusive to the characters, which is the reason it has remained a classic.
A fun way to incorporate this book into a class or rainy day activity would be to encourage them to watercolor or draw dresses or outfits of their classmates or favorite characters.
I’ve always loved this story. For some reason it reminds me of The Best-Loved Doll by Rebecca Caudill.
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