Eleanor Estes: The Hundred Dresses

The Hundred Dresses - Eleanor Estes, Louis Slobodkin, Helena Estes

This story is told from the point of view of Maddie, who is the best friend of Peggy, the most popular girl in their class. Peggy is cruel to one of the girls in their class named Wanda, who does not fit in well with the other girls. Because we hear from Maddie who is watching this dynamic and not the Peggy who is the bully, the story is very accessible: most people are part of the group but not the most popular person in it. It also left me with what I think is a more important message: that we must not tolerate bullying, even when it is done by someone we like and not directed at ourselves. It's easy to see that Peggy shouldn't be teasing Wanda, but it's much harder to say what Maddie's role should be in curbing her friend's cruelty. Maddie considers that Peggy isn't aware of how cruel she is, that if she steps in she may lose her position as Peggy's best friend, and that she may accidentally turn the bullying back onto herself. She has a lot at stake and a difficult decision before her. I was impressed with the subtlety of the problem in such a straightforward children's book. It makes me wonder what book could have beat this one out for the Newbery Award that year?