April Book Reviews: The Hundred Dresses

I’m posting again because it’s Thursday, but you can keep commenting your guesses on my “Mystery Quote” post until next Tuesday.

It was really hot yesterday, but today is cooler.  We had a good thunderstorm last night–lightning and everything–that probably helped!

Due to the heat, Michael and Lucy played in the hose yesterday-afternoon.  We have hot-water in the hose on the back-porch and someone left it on and used up all the hot water!  We were kinda’ worried that the heater was broken, but then figured out it had just run out.  Phew!  We had hot water again by that evening, but I took a cold shower anyway–the weather was just that sweltering.  Took a minute last night to thank God for running water!

Spencer is in Lincoln at TeenPact, which a class for home-school students about American government.  You can read some of his homework on his blog, here.

Anyway: the book review!  Sorry I am a little late in getting this posted, I wasted spent I-don’t-know-how-much time today watching songs from The Sound of Music with M and L! 🙂

Several years ago my Mom read The Hundred Dresses by Eleanor Estes out loud to me, and I liked it from the start.  Which strikes me as weird now, as it is a school-story, which I–being home-schooled–cannot relate to.  But the common misconception that home-schoolers do not have friends is, after all, a misconception; and this book is more about friendship.  It has some pretty stereotypical old-fashioned school tweaks, like popular girls/bullies, good- and bad-sides-of-town, clicks and cast-outs, and unpopular kids; but it has a unique twist.  This book, though not directly Christian, has good morals; real, relatable characters; and is beautifully written.

This book has chapters, but it is very short.  (So short, actually, that I re-read the whole thing this afternoon to prepare for writing this.)

It reminded Maddie of Wanda’s one dress, her faded blue cotton dress, shabby but clean. (56)

Peggy is the most popular girl at her school, were she studies in Room 13.  Even though Maddie is poor, she is Peggy’s very best friend.

The most unpopular girl at the school is a little polish girl–also from Room 13–named Wanda Petronski.

Most of the children in Room 13 didn’t have names like that.  They had names easy to say, like Thomas, Smith, or Allen.  There was one boy named Bounce, Willie Bounce, and people thought that was funny but not funny in the same way that Petronski was. (10)

Every single day Wanda wears the same old, blue, cotton dress to school–but she claims that she has a hundred “all lined up in her closet.”  Peggy then made a game out of it; asking her everyday outside the schoolhouse how many dresses she has and makes fun her answer–one hundred of them.

The very idea of a poor, little Polish girl who lives in the wrong part of town and wears the same clothes to school everyday having a hundred silk and satin dresses is absurd, of course.  It is obviously a lie; but all the teasing made Maddie nervous.  She knows it is wrong for all of them to tease Wanda, but she cannot find the courage to discuss it with her friend; haunted by the idea of losing Peggy’s friendship, or–even worse–the idea of Peggy starting on her.  Maddie knows she is poor and is wearing hand-me-downs, and it would be easy for the girls to tease her.

Peggy might ask her where she got the dress she had on, and Maddie would have to say that it was one of Peggy’s old ones that Maddie’s mother had tried to disguise with new trimmings so that no one in Room 13 would recognize it. (35)

Peggy and Maddie finally realize how miserable they really made Wanda, but only when it is probably too late to apologize.

She had stood by silently, and that was just as bad as what Peggy had done.  Worse.  She was a coward.  At least Peggy hadn’t considered they were being mean, but she, Maddie, had thought they were doing wrong. (49)

Maddie tried desperately to think of something she could do besides resolve not to stand silently again.  Both her and Peggy try their hardest to reach Wanda, knowing it might be too late, and finally learn how the little Polish girl really felt about them.

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