Best Chapter Book on Girl Bullying Ever!
My oldest’s teacher recommended this book to me when my daughter was in 3rd grade. There had been a history of not-so-nice girl bullying since Kindergarten but by 3rd grade, it was totally out of hand. The teacher thought this would be an especially good book for my daughter’s book club, and we, the moms, talked about doing a Mother and Daughter book club to model discussion around this book but we never pulled it off.
This Newbery Honor book was written in 1944 but it’s still so relevant today. The author’s daughter said that her mother, who grew up in West Haven, Connecticut where the story takes place was the girl (Maddie)who stood by while her friend (Peggy) led the girl bullying towards a girl who was Polish and claimed to have one hundred dresses in her closet while wearing just one shabby dress every day to school. Like the girl in the story (Wanda), this little girl moves to New York City, but the author never gets a chance to tell her how sorry she is. Instead, she writes this book.
Girl bullying is such a devious thing. Done with words and gestures and giggles behind the bullied girl’s back, it’s meant to humiliate. It’s not violent but subtle. And it’s relentless.
I would personally pair this book up with a book on immigration, particularly Polish immigration if I was turning this into a book club or home study chapter. I would focus on the idea of an “ally.” Someone, who as a bystander, has the courage to stand up for the victim and say “STOP!”
This is the relevant passage: on page 63, of The Hundred Dresses, Maddie has a revelation.
“At last Maddie sat up in bed and pressed her forehead tight in her hands and really thought. This was the hardest thinking she had ever done. After a long, long time she reached an important conclusion.
She was never going to stand by and say nothing again.”
If we could impart this message to our children, how powerful that would be!
The reading level of this book is similar to My Father’s Dragon, but the content makes it a slightly more advanced book than the difficulty of reading level. This book would be perfect for girls in grades 3-5. If girl bullying is an issue in 2nd grade, this would be a great book but I would probably recommend leading a discussion on the book whether that is 1:1 or in a group setting.
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BEST #OWNVOICES CHILDREN’S BOOKS: My Favorite Diversity Books for Kids Ages 1-12 is a book that I created to highlight books written by authors who share the same marginalized identity as the characters in their books.