Title: The Hundred Dresses
Author: Eleanor Estes
Illustrator: Louis Slobodkin
Publication Date: 1944 (1972, 2004)
Publisher: Harcourt, Inc.
Price: $7.00 Paperback
Number of Pages: 80
Awards: Newbery Honor Book
Genre/Subgenre: Classic Fiction, Realistic Fiction
Wanda and her “hundred dresses” teach Maddie and Peggy an important lesson on kindness and friendship.
Best friends Maddie and Peggy, along with the other girls in their class, have made a game out of their classmate Wanda. Wanda, a poor Polish immigrant, wears the same blue dress to school every day but claims to have a full wardrobe of one hundred beautiful dresses at home. The other students, led by Peggy, tease Wanda to the point that her family moves away. It is only after Wanda has left the school that the truth is revealed: Wanda’s “one hundred dresses” were beautifully designed drawings that she created and hung in her closet. Wanda leaves two of the drawings for Peggy and Maddie, who come to regret their bullying of Wanda and realize that she viewed them as a friend despite their poor treatment of her.
The Hundred Dresses is a classic for a reason: it’s wonderful! The themes of class, bullying, and friendship are timeless and the lessons learned by the characters are as applicable today as they were when the book was written. Additionally, the illustrations by Louis Slobodkin are lovely and truly bring Wanda and her hundred dresses to life.
Why I Chose the Book:
I was really drawn to the illustrations – Louis Slobodkin’s work depicting the characters and Wanda’s dresses is beautiful. I wanted to read the story that accompanied these gorgeous drawings.
Blue Willow by Doris Gates
The Family Under the Bridge by Natalie Savage Carlson
The Year of Miss Agnes by Kirkpatrick Hill
Book Talk Ideas
Have students create a dress to add to Wanda’s collection of 100 dresses.
1. Wanda is bullied by the other girl’s in school for being different. How does she handle this situation? What does it say about her, and what does it say about the bullies?
2. Eleanor Estes, the author, based The Hundred Dresses on a childhood classmate who was picked on for being poor and having a limited wardrobe. Why do you think Estes wanted to write this novel? Does knowing that the story is inspired by true events change your opinion of it?
Estes, E. (1944). The Hundred Dresses. New York: Harcourt, Inc.
The Hundred Dresses (2014). Goodreads. Retrieved from: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/42369.The_Hundred_Dresses