Can a boy dancer be cool? Yes he can! And yet Alex, the main character in “Standing Alone,” is teased mercilessly by his classmates because he likes to dance. They call him “ballerina,” even though he actually does contemporary dance, not ballet. They make his life miserable every chance they get. Nobody likes to be made fun of. Nobody likes to be bullied. Everybody wants to be liked and appreciated.
In our modern world, we think of ourselves as open-minded. Boys and girls can follow their dreams, no matter what they are. But some stereotypes persist from the past, like the one that says it’s unmanly for a boy to be interested in dance. It’s important to look at those stereotypes and see how wrong they are, how much they hurt people. Then maybe we can get rid of them and become better people.
Eleven-year-old author Erin Trefny helps us do just that in “Standing Alone,” the featured story from our May/June 2014 issue. She shows us the world through Alex’s eyes – his love of dance, the cruelty of his classmates, how he deals with his problem. Some of the best stories we receive are stories in which the author is writing about his or her own experiences. In Erin’s case, though, she is a girl writing from the viewpoint of a boy. How does she do it? Maybe she knows a boy like Alex, or maybe she is really good at using her imagination and observations to put herself in someone else’s shoes (or bare feet, in Alex’s case!). Whatever her secret, Erin has created a believable character. She has placed him in a story that holds our interest from start to finish. The story teaches us an important lesson, not by telling but by showing.
Read Erin’s story twice, then read it again. Each time you will notice more little details and bits of dialogue that make the people and places come to life. Most of all, notice how Erin shows us, through her well-crafted story, that it is wrong to tease, wrong to bully, and wrong to stereotype.