The Hundred Dresses

The Hundred Dresses Study Guide

First published in 1944, Eleanor Estes's classic children's book The Hundred Dresses is about the remorse a young girl experiences after she stands by while her best friend teases an impoverished classmate who claims to own one hundred dresses.

Estes has said that she based the story on her own experience growing up in small-town Connecticut in the early 1900s. An elementary school classmate was teased because she wore the same dress to school every day and because she had a Polish surname that was difficult for the Anglophone children to pronounce. Estes herself wanted to stand up for the girl, but she worried that she herself would become the target of ridicule once people discovered that she wore hand-me-down dresses. In the middle of the school year, the Polish girl's family relocated to New York City and Estes was never able to apologize for having stood by while the girl was teased.

For its memorable depiction of Maddie's remorse and Wanda's forgiving spirit, The Hundred Dresses earned Estes the Newbery Medal.