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Some books go together beautifully. Which is why I’m starting a series called “Picture Books for Pairing.” This is the first one!
These two were created in completely different eras, however, they speak to the same thing. The way kids (read people) can be unkind. The way sometimes it’s the easier choice. But how we regret it later.
The Hundred Dresses
Eleanor Estes wrote The Hundred Dresses in 1944. It’s not technically a picture book in the 32 paged way we think of them today. It’s more of an illustrated chapter book. But it would make a great read-aloud too.
Wanda Petronski was Polish and had a hard to say name. She lived in Boggins Heights, which “was no place to live.” She wore the same faded blue dress every day.
The other girls would always “have fun” with Wanda. Which means they made fun of her. They made fun of her because despite wearing one old dress all the time, she claimed to have one hundred dresses in her closet at home in Boggins Heights. The other girls thought that was a ridiculous thing to say.
When there’s a drawing and coloring contest, the class finds out what Wanda meant by having a hundred dresses. How she’d told the truth. But Wanda’s family has already left town.
It’s winter. Maya is new at school. Maya has old, ragged clothes. Maya tries to be friends, but the narrator won’t have it. “‘She’s not my friend,’ I whispered back.”
It’s spring. Someone calls Maya “Never New. Everything she has came from a secondhand store.”
A teacher talks about kindness. “Each little thing we do goes out, like a ripple, into the world.” But Maya isn’t in school. And doesn’t return. And the narrator regrets her lack of kindness. She knows she’ll regret it forever.
In both, a girl is teased for being poor and different In both, the characters we follow eventually realize that teasing was a mistake. In both, the new girl leaves and the character is haunted with remembering. With what she might have done differently.
I could see these books being paired when exploring bullying, or a new school year. I could see them being read together or consecutively to bring up the idea that we’ll remember the stuff we do as kids, later. We’ll remember the hundred dresses. And we’ll remember each kindness as well.