MEN OF STONE by Gayle Friesen


Age Range: 11 - 14
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Fifteen-year-old Ben Conrad can’t seem to catch a break. With three self-absorbed older sisters who treat him like a baby, and with a widowed mother who’s still mourning her husband’s loss ten years before and is too busy anyway to notice that her son is growing up, Ben can’t make sense of his life. Who is he? Who will he become? While he does have two best friends who offer solace and support, his life’s on an even more precipitous downturn since he gave up something he’s really good at and enjoys—dancing—and since Claude, the school bully, has become increasingly menacing. Into this turmoil comes elderly great-aunt Frieda, a Mennonite survivor of Stalin’s reign of terror. Her wisdom, patient understanding, and the stories she tells about how she faced up to the tragedies in her life with quiet courage help Ben grow in self-confidence and self-knowledge. How Frieda’s influence helps Ben to work up the nerve to develop a relationship with the girl he likes and to use his dancing skills and natural agility to turn the tables on his nemesis, and, in short, to turn his life around, makes for a satisfying, logical progression of events. This Canadian import by the author of Janey’s Girl (1998) is very well-written, and Ben is a fully realized, funny, and charming character. Whether many young readers will completely buy the premise that a teenager could be so powerfully transformed by an 85-year-old’s accounts of long-ago events, however, is not at all a given. The ending, furthermore, is a bit too pat with the whole family’s sudden awakening to Ben’s needs and feelings. Worth a try, but may be a tough sell. (Fiction. 11-14)

Pub Date: Sept. 1st, 2000
ISBN: 1-55074-781-9
Page count: 216pp
Publisher: Kids Can
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15th, 2000


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