Most of the books I have collected for our kids were based on memories I had of them growing up, recommendations by trusted friends, or because I had the chance to leaf through the pages at a thrift store and was pleased with what caught my eye.

For some reason, I absentmindedly added The Hundred Dresses by Eleanor Estes to my cart a few years back and was surprised to find it in a box on our doorstep. This happy accident is staying on our bookshelf.

Nearly all the characters are female, and the story revolves around dresses, so this book appeals largely to young girls (our then 6 and 7 year old girls were particularly moved by this tale), but the lessons are applicable to everyone.

Originally published in 1944, The Hundred Dresses tells the story of a poor Polish girl named Wanda Petronski who wears the same faded blue dress to school every day.

She claims she has a hundred dresses at home, but nobody believes her. After bullying her incessantly, the class feels terrible after she no longer shows up at school.

Eventually, they discover that Wanda did indeed have 100 dresses in her closet, but not in the way they expected.
In a gentle but unforgettable way, this story brings us face to face with the harsh reality of bullying and bystanders, and conveys the beauty and importance of forgiveness, kindness, and finding the courage to speak up.

Most people will be able to relate to the story in some way, identifying either with the bully, the victim, the bystanders who know what they’re doing is wrong but are scared to speak up, the victim’s rightfully upset father, or the heavy-hearted teacher.

We were able to read the entire book in one sitting, but it’s still very much worth a place on your bookshelf.

I’d recommend it as a read aloud, or for children (girls) ages 9 and younger.