The classic children's book, The Hundred Dresses (1944, Harcourt Brace) by Eleanor Estes, was my favorite book in the third grade. I loved it then because of the surprising end reveal of the astounding creative ability of Wanda Petronski, a Polish immigrant.
Wanda is bullied by her classmates for being different, especially by Peggy and sometimes by Maddie. But Maddie, who narrates much of the story, feels uncomfortable about Peggy's bullying. Bu like so many of us Maddie is afraid to speak up.
The book's beautiful ending grips the imagination. But it's realistic, too. Even as a child I resonated to Maddie's resolution at the end:
"She was never going to stand by and say nothing again. If she ever heard anybody picking on someone because they were funny looking or had strange names, she'd speak up. Even if it meant losing Peggy's friendship. She had no way of making things right with Wanda, but from now on she would never make anyone else so unhappy again."
Estes had the art, sensitivity, and skill to make the young reader feel the impact of prejudice and bullying. The Hundred Dresses should be "smack dab in the middle" of every classroom today.