A Timeless Tale of Bullies and Bystanders: The Hundred Dresses By ELEANOR ESTES – Review by Jennifer McLaughlin
Bullies and bystanders have existed since the beginning of time. The Hundred Dresses by Eleanor Estes, written in 1944, portrays the story of the schoolyard bully, bystander and victim before the internet and social media.
The Hundred Dresses by Eleanor Estes is a beautifully written and timelessly classic book. In this story Maddie sees the devastation that the teasing of her classmates has had on a classmate. Though she feels uncomfortable with the way her best friend Peggy and the other girls tease Wanda, she doesn’t have the courage to do or say anything about it. Then one day Wanda stops coming to school. Maddie has a bad feeling about Wanda’s absence, but tries to only think about the drawing contest, which she is sure Peggy will win. On the day the winner is to be announced, the girls enter the class to see the walls covered in one hundred drawings of beautiful, unique dresses. These are Wanda’s hundred dresses, although she has won the contest, she will not be in class to accept her medal. Wanda’s father writes to the class, saying that they are moving to the city, where having a different name is not so unusual. In the days that follow, Maddie and Peggy try to apologize to Wanda for what they’ve done, but they learn that sometimes sorry just isn’t enough.
This is an enduring theme in children literature and in children’s lives. All over the world there are children who dress differently, have an unusual accent, or just seem different for any number of reasons. There is also always someone ready and eager to emotionally tear him or her down simply for being different. Unfortunately there are also those that stand by and watch it happen without doing anything about it. In years past, the taunting, teasing, and harassment that bullies doled out was mainly delivered at school or in the neighborhood. The targets traditionally are children who appear weaker emotionally and/or physically. Those kids have been victims of bullying for hundreds of years. The millennial generation has taken the bully and the bystander to a completely new platform via Facebook, Instagram and Twitter. Cyberbullying has received quite a bit of attention due to the ripple effect. Bullying is no longer just a verbal. physical or written action and then it is over; it is out there for all to see, comment on and take part of, amplifying the damage done.
The author, Eleanor Estes, wrote this book from her own childhood experiences. She was not bully, but the bystander. She wrote this book as a way of saying she was sorry to her classmate for not standing up for what was the right thing to do. This little gem of a book strips the concept of bully and bystander down to the core issues. My grandmother shared this book with me as a child and I shared with my daughter and every class I have taught. This is a story that as stood the test of time and will stay with you and your students for a lifetime.
Jennifer McLaughlin has spent the last 20 years working with children in the public schools. Graduating from Ball State University with a Bachelor of Science degree in Education and from Lamar University with a Master’s of Science in Educational Leadership. Currently she is the ALD (Academic Language Development) Specialist at Jean McClung Middle School in FWISD. Before that Jennifer served as an Academic Specialist and a classroom teacher. In addition to the degrees she has earned Certifications as a Principal, in Gifted Education, ESL instruction, and as a Reading Specialist.