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The Hundred Dresses

This school-life, family-life book by Eleanor Estes is published by Harcourt Children's Books and is written for kids ages 5 to 10. The age range reflects readability and not necessarily content appropriateness.

Plot Summary

Wanda Petronski's strange last name is just one of many attributes that makes her odd in the eyes of her classmates. She lives in a shabby neighborhood next door to a man who everyone believes is crazy. Every day, Wanda wears the same blue dress — although she claims she has a hundred dresses in her closet at home. A girl named Peggy frequently teases Wanda about the hundred dresses, and Peggy's reluctant sidekick, Maddie, joins the taunting to avoid getting teased. Only after Wanda creates 100 beautiful pictures of dresses, do Peggy and Maddie realize how they've hurt her, and they try to make amends.

Christian Beliefs

Nothing overtly Christian is mentioned, though Wanda demonstrates grace and forgiveness toward the girls who tease her.

Authority Roles

Miss Mason, the girls' teacher, raves about Wanda's artwork. She receives a note from Wanda's father, which indicates that Wanda's family is moving due to prejudice against their Polish heritage. After reading the letter, Miss Mason says she'd prefer to believe no one purposely hurt Wanda's feelings, and she asks the students to think about what has happened.

Other Belief Systems

None

Profanity/Graphic Violence

None

Kissing/Sex/Homosexuality

None

Awards

Newbery Honor Book, 1945

Discussion Topics

If your children have read this book or someone has read it to them, consider these discussion topics:

  • Have you ever made up a story because you thought it might make someone like you better? What was your story, and what happened as a result?
  • Why do you think Maddie had a hard time defending Wanda?
  • How have you reacted toward someone being picked on?
  • What are some ways you could show compassion and kindness to someone who is being bullied?
  • How have you ever been teased or rejected by others?
  • In the Bible, how did Jesus respond when He saw someone being mistreated?
  • Wanda forgave Peggy and Maddie even though they had hurt her.
    Why is it difficult to forgive people who have hurt you?
    What does the Bible say about forgiveness?

Book reviews cover the content, themes and worldviews of fiction books, not their literary merit, and equip parents to decide whether a book is appropriate for their children. A book's inclusion does not constitute an endorsement by Focus on the Family.

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