Module 1: The Hundred Dresses


Estes, E. (1944). The hundred dresses. New York, NY: Harcourt, Brace, and Co.

Summary: Wanda Petronski is a poor Polish-American girl growing up in a small Connecticut town. When she tells her classmates, Peggy and Maddie, that she has one hundred dresses hanging in her closet but yet only wears the same blue dress every day they begin relentlessly teasing her.The endless cruelty Wanda experiences in school ultimately results in her father removing her from school. As a result, Maddie, who had already been feeling guilty for the teasing becomes increasingly upset over her actions. It isn’t until Wanda wins a drawing contest (after she has already moved), in which she drew her one hundred dresses, that Maddie and Peggy accept her and realize that Wanda has liked them all along.

Impressions: Childhood is incredibly simple – children hurt the feelings of others, learn their lesson, apologize and then all is right in the world. There are no grudges, no hard feelings. Or at least this is how Estes’ world appears to be in The Hundred Dresses. I am far removed from elementary school and this book was written in 1945 so childhood was certainly different then than when I grew up. What hasn’t changed though is bullying and racism. It may look the same (teasing because of stuttering or because someone is poor or not popular) or it may be different (cyber bullying). And racism is certainly alive today – Hispanics and people of Middle Eastern descent have been constant targets in America as have other minorities. For these reasons, The Hundred Dresses, though slightly dated, is still relevant for children today.

Review: “This long standing favorite tells the story of Wanda, a Polish immigrant, who is teased by her classmates for her differences and her claim that she owns a hundred dresses. Estes skill with languages shines in this ash she uses just the right word or phrase to vividly catch the emotion and the moment, but still keeps the text natural sounding and accessible. The story serves as a classic example of outstanding use of language in transitional literature.” Liang, L.A., Book Links, January 2006

Liang, L.A. (2006, January). [Review of the book The Hundred Dresses, by E. Estes]. Book Links, 15(3), p. 51.

Library Uses: Many of my colleagues and I are in agreement about the Caldecotts and Newberry award winners being somewhat dry. This is, of course, personal taste. The Hundred Dresses is a great Honor book with substance to keep on hand for patrons looking for award winners. I could also see myself using it for a tween time book talk since it is a fairly easy read and deals with a topic that would apply to that age group.