I’m not sure how many years it’s actually been since I first read Eleanor Estes’ The Hundred Dresses. Maybe 20. Probably more in the range of 22 or 23, because this book–this little, beautiful book–was the very first “real” book I remember reading as a child. The first book that had chapters, and whole pages of text without pictures. My original copy was small and white, and in my memory it was 100 pages long. The perfect number for a book about 100 dresses. And when I read it, I loved it. It made me happy and made me sad. It was the best introduction to “literature” little girl Jessica could have possibly had.
This new copy is bigger. It’s broader. The me from childhood wouldn’t have liked that its size is a blend between a chapter book and a picture book. And this version has pictures. Colorful, beautiful pictures throughout. I’m not sure I would have liked that either. Afterall, I was proud of my “real” book, and my accomplishment in being able to read, understand, and love such a mature book. Plus, it’s only 80 pages. A round number, true, but not nearly as poetic as 100.
I went out this morning and picked this up, because I’ve been thinking about The Hundred Dresses a lot lately, and how wrapped up my identity might be in it. It’s about a little girl, who didn’t quite fit into the world she was in, and to cope, she made up stories of beautiful dresses.
I have to be honest, I’m a little scared to reread it, so many years later. What if I don’t like it? What if I don’t like the girl? Or if the story doesn’t move me? Then again, it’s been in print continuously since 1945, so I’ll be quite the snob if I don’t like it. But what if I don’t love it.
Then again, if I don’t, that doesn’t mean it has less power. I think the beauty of art is that it changes with us as we grow. Sometimes we grow with a piece, gaining new understanding and depth of perspective with the wisdom that comes only through time, and sometimes we grow away from a piece. The latter doesn’t make its original worth anyway less. And so, I delve in again, so many years later.
I hope I’ll love it.