Important stories are ones that each me to look at some aspect of my behavior or the world around me in a new and different way. They teach a moral lesson, but without preaching. It's hard to teach moral lessons without being preachy -- as an author, I know that full well. But some stories pull it off beautifully. This is one.
(What other stories have earned the label Important over the years? To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee. A Light in the Forest by Conrad Richter. Movies like Rebel Without a Cause, Blackboard Jungle, A Gentlemen's Agreement, and Guess Who's Coming to Dinner?)
It's a very simple story. A group of schoolgirls tease Wanda Petronski every day. She's poor, she wears the same shabby dress every day, and she claims to have a hundred dresses in her closet at home. Wanda never gets angry about the teasing, never reacts in any way but to eventually walk away. One girl, Maddie, is self-aware enough to eventually realize that she joins in teasing Wanda because she's afraid if she doesn't, they'll tease her instead. The book as a whole focuses on Maddie's journey from timid joiner to resolute individual. It accomplishes this with 78 pages, half of them filled with illustrations. It's a masterful example of sparse storytelling with nothing extra, nothing unnecessary. A good story, well-told. Which is my favorite kind.
Oddly enough, I remembered this book ending differently than it does. I've been convinced for years that Wanda died at the end, and that's how they discovered the truth about her hundred dresses. But she doesn't. I'm really wondering now why I thought that. Huh.
I read this as part of the 2019 Newbery Read Along hosted on Instagram by @lollipopsandlyrics and @happylittlebirdy. If you also love classic children's fiction, please join us!
Wisps of old grass stuck up here and there along the pathway like thin wet kittens (p. 53)
If This was a Movie, I Would Rate It: G. Appropriate for all ages, though most appreciated by first grade on up, I think.
This is my 25th book read and reviewed for my second go-round with the Classics Club! I'm halfway there!