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scrounge: /skrounj/ informal verb: to actively seek [books] from any available source

Even though "bullying" is a hot topic these days, sometimes I find that I still view it in a caricatured way. When I hear that a book is about bullying, I instantly picture a masculine "backpack in a tree" sort of thing. But as we know, bullying does not have to involve a swirlie or cartoonish, overt, physical humiliation -- it can be more subtle and persistent, and that's the type that's portrayed in The Hundred Dresses.

Wanda Petronski, a Polish immigrant, is teased for wearing the same dress every day. When she says she has a hundred dresses, she is teased even more. Later on, the girls find out she was telling the truth, just not in the way that they had expected. The story focuses on Maddie, one of the girls in Wanda's class. Although she is not the primary instigator, she still stands by while her friend teases Wanda, and it isn't until Wanda moves away that she starts to feel bad about her passivity. I appreciated this bit of realism because I'm sure many of us can attest that it isn't until we look back on a situation that we can often see much more clearly how we were in the wrong. Many things feel just fine when we're in the middle of them.

That's what I think this story does so well -- not just in portraying some instances of bullying and evoking pity for the person bullied, but also showing one character's gradual realization that what she did was wrong, even though it didn't feel overtly bad or cruel at the time. Because of this, Maddie vows to be more vigilant in her treatment of others and to never "stand by and say nothing" again. She recognizes that this is a choice she will have to make again, and becomes far more aware of how she will respond to that choice in future situations.

Format: Paperback
Author: Eleanor Estes
Pages: 80
Content Advisory: Girls treat Wanda in a demeaning way.

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