University of Washington’s Center for Philosophy for Children
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Title and Author: The Hundred Dresses by Eleanor Estes

Field of Philosophy: Ethics

Plot Summary: Wanda wears the same faded blue dress to school every day-yet she says she has one hundred beautiful dresses at home, “all lined up.” The other girls don't believe it, and when Peggy starts a daily game of teasing Wanda about the hundred dresses, everyone joins in. Maddie, Peggy's best friend, goes along with the game, but she secretly wonders whether she can find the courage to speak up in Wanda's defense. The story depicts the conflicting feelings faced by someone who is participating in or witnessing something that they sense is morally problematic, but who do not want to risk their own friendships and reputations by speaking up.

Some Discussion Questions:

Chapters 1-2 – Discussion Questions:

• Why do you think that Wanda didn’t have any friends?

• Why do you think that Wanda said that she had one hundred dresses in her closet? Was she lying? Why?

• Are lying and storytelling the same thing?

• Was the “hundred dresses game” a cruel way to treat Wanda?

• Why was how they were treating Wanda bothering Maddie?

Chapters 3-5 – Discussion Questions:

• Was Wanda different from the other girls – how?

• Was Maddie a coward?

• Why was Maddie afraid to speak to Peggy about her feelings about making fun of Wanda?

• Why didn’t Maddie do anything? What were the effects of her silence?

• How do you think Peggy and Maddie felt when they saw Wanda’s drawings on the walls?

• Why did Wanda move away?

• Are Peggy and Maddie friends? What is a friend?

Go around the circle and ask if these statements about friends are true or not true:

A friend is someone you see all the time.
A friend is someone you talk to a lot.
A friend is someone you share your thoughts with.
A friend is someone you trust.
A friend is someone you share your toys with.
A friend is someone who always agrees with you.
A friend is someone who helps you when you need help.
A friend is someone who is always nice to you.
A friend is someone you like to be around.
A friend is someone who lives in the same town that you do.
A friend is someone you like.
A friend is someone you think about a lot.
A friend is someone you can say anything to.
A friend is someone who likes the same things you do.

Chapters 6-7 – Discussion Questions:

• Peggy says that teasing Wanda about the hundred dresses probably gave her good ideas for her drawings, and maybe she wouldn’t have won the drawing contest otherwise. Do you think that this makes sense? Is Peggy making excuses for her own behavior? Why? Do you think she is troubled by what happened?

• Was writing a letter to Wanda the right thing to do? What would have been better: to write a friendly letter to Wanda, as Maddie and Peggy did, or to write a real apology letter? Why?

• When Maddie and Peggy get the drawings Wanda made, Peggy concludes that Wanda really liked them and that everything was all right. Maddie isn’t so sure about that. What do you think? Why was Maddie still sad?

• Maddie decides that she is never going to stand by and say nothing again. Do you think that this is a good rule? Do most people “stand by and say nothing?” Why or why not?