The Hundred Dresses by Eleanor Estes
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
Nobody really pays much attention to Wanda Petronski other than to tease the shy, silent girl about the hundred dresses she claims to have, so no one even notices at first when she stops showing up to school. When her classmates do think of her, it's often to wonder why she would lie about something so obvious--she clearly has only the one dress, which she wears every single day.
Maddie's best friend Peggy instigated the daily teasing sessions, and Maddie has always felt guilty about that, but she's been afraid to speak up for fear the girls' attention would turn to her next. After all, she's poor, too, although not quite so poor as Wanda. When Wanda stops coming to school, Maddie wants to do something to make up for hurting her, especially after they all learn the truth of the hundred dresses. But are they too late?
This classic story highlights not only the emotional pain inflicted by bullies but also the trauma caused by bystanders who privately object yet publicly do nothing to stop the abuse. Like Mean Girls, but for an older elementary school crowd. It would be a great choice for a classroom read-aloud and discussion (or role-playing session), as well as an excellent book for parents and grandparents to read (aloud or silently) and discuss with their children/grandchildren. Even though it was first published in 1944, it's still relevant today, other than the sexist design/coloring competition and the fact that girls only wear dresses to school.
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