Friesen, Gayle. Men of Stone. Kids Can Press, 2000. ISBN 0-55074-781-9. $16.95. 216 pp. A 9-12 FI Reviewed by Lanell Rabner As if life isn’t bad enough living in a house surrounded by women, now Aunt Frieda, who must be at least one hundred years old, is coming to visit. Fifteen-year-old Ben, certainly not a ladies’ man and not quite a jock, can’t seem to find where he fits in. Born to dance, Ben gives up his one true passion when his high school peers catch wind of his dirty little secret and dub him Ballerina Boy. Unable to communicate with his overworked mother or three overbearing, obnoxious older sisters, Ben turns to Aunt Frieda to help him make sense of his life. Ben is drawn to the old woman, who has a face that tells a story he’s not so sure he wants to hear. As she talks to him about his father, dead for ten years, Ben wants to hear more. As his confidence in her increases, Aunt Frieda begins to share with him her life in Stalin’s Russia, when the men with no faces, no eyes, no expressions at all took her young husband off to prison in the middle of the night. A powerful story of learning to get beyond the grief, anger, and hatred caused by life’s injustice by choosing to define who we will become. Ben learns that when you stop hating, you set yourself free. Friesen’s strong characters speak to the heart, saying it’s okay to be afraid; it’s okay to be different. Yet each one of us must learn to conquer the men of stone we face in our own lives, so we can become who we will.
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