In this classic childhood favorite, Eleanor Estes takes you into the world of little Wanda who is taunted by her classmates because she is always seen wearing the same worn out blue dress. Wanda’s story takes a toll on what it is like to be picked on and how to cope with such a devastating issue. She is affected by poverty and therefore relies on her vivid imagination to get her through such a troubling time.
Wanda claims she owns a hundred dresses, all lined up in her closet to strike back at Peggy and her friends’ taunts. This subjects Wanda to ridicule by her classmates who make it a game to taunt her by asking her to describe the dresses she claims to have. Wanda is teased by Peggy while Peggy’s best friend, Maddie, stands by and lets it happen. Maddie is seen as the bystander who is afraid to speak up, because she is worried that she’ll be the next target if she says something. It isn’t until she sees the one hundred beautiful dresses that Wanda drew for a contest at school, that Maddie decides to take action and turn things around.
This story allows readers to indulge in a world they can possibly relate to. It has brought back memories for many who have been in similar situations. The bully and bystander dynamic in this story are very apparent and relatable in today’s society. It shows how one can become bigger than the issue at hand. Although she was teased, Wanda never let the other girls see how hurt she was by their words. Even though Wanda was teased for being different, she did not let it destroy her. She showed great qualities that should be embraced and truly showed how one can take control of a situation and not let it bring you down.
The book was written in 1944, yet it touches on a very relevant topic in our society that is seen in various forms. Bullying is a prominent issue in our society and it is very important for people to understand how much it hurts others. Words hurt more than people understand and even though sometimes we do not see the damage we are causing, it does not mean it isn’t there. Estes’ portrayal of Wanda and the pain she must endure due to the cruelty she is faced with for being different is extremely moving. It shows just how much someone will put up with to fit in, as well as how far someone will go to put someone down.
Wanda is such an admirable character and will truly move you and resonate with you for years to come. This book is one of my favorites because it has such a great message. It portrays such amazing inner strength that can only be achieved by those who are truly strong at heart. Wanda is such an admirable character who serves a true purpose, especially in a society which sees only what is on the exterior. Being different is embraced in this book which I feel is such a powerful message for anyone. It not only touches on such a relevant subject but also demonstrates that it is never too late to make things right. If you have not read this book, it is a must-read for adults and children alike. Share it with someone special in your life so the one hundred dresses can continue to live on.
Eleanor Estes was born on May 9, 1906. She was a successful American children’s author, librarian, and she taught at the University of New Hampshire Writer‘s Conference. She wrote countless books many of which won Newbery awards. Her books are said to be based on her life in rural Connecticut. She based the book, “The Hundred Dresses” from her experience as a child in remorse for not defending the Wanda character in real life. Estes died July 15, 1988 leaving a great legacy of children’s books behind.