Feiwel & Friends
Published June 13, 2023
About The Gray
The Gray is a sensitively told middle grade story from Chris Baron about living with anxiety and finding ways to cope.
It’s been a tough year for Sasha―he’s been bullied at his middle school and his anxiety, which he calls the Gray, is growing. Sasha’s dad tells him to “toughen up”―and he does, but with unfortunate, hurtful results. His parents and therapist agree that a summer in the country with his aunt might be the best medicine, but it’s the last place he wants to be. He’ll be away from his best friend, video games, and stuck in the house that reminds him of his beloved uncle who died two years earlier.
His aunt is supportive, and there are lots of places to explore, and even some potential new friends. When Sasha is introduced at a local ranch to a horse coincidentally–incredibly–nicknamed the Gray, he feels he’s found a kindred spirit.
But his own Gray is ever-present. When one of his new friends disappears, Sasha discovers that the country is wilder and more mysterious than he imagined. He tries to muster enough courage to help in the search . . . but will the Gray hold him back?
I’m so excited to FINALLY get to read a book by Chris Baron. I’ve heard so many positive things, and I actually think I have his other books, but this is the first I’ve read.
From the beginning, I definitely felt pulled into Sasha’s story and his anxiety symptoms. Some members of his family are super supportive, and he has a friend who has his back. But he has other relationships that are really challenging.
I loved the descriptions of his aunt’s home and property and the surrounding area. It sounded so green and peaceful (except for the ghosts!) and I loved the relationships he formed with other kids.
For Sasha, his anxiety manifests in kind of a physical way– in which his vision goes gray and foggy. Those descriptions made what he experienced so tangible. I liked that it kind of threw a veil between him and what was happening around him and made it clear what happened as he surfaced from that space.
I also loved the connection between him and his uncle. Even though he’d passed away, his memories of his uncle and the stories he shared helped Sasha see himself in a new, more positive way. They helped him feel less alone, too. So cool.
All in all, this is definitely a book I’d recommend not only for kids with anxiety but for anyone who’s felt alone or gone through painful changes in friendships.
Recommended for Ages 8 to 12.
Sasha’s dad’s family immigrated to the US. Sasha and his family are Jewish. One minor character’s mom is in a relationship with another woman.
Profanity/Crude Language Content
Rumors say that the ghost of a missing girl visits the empty buildings of what used to be a Jewish summer camp. Sasha learns about what his uncle refers to as “worlds within worlds”, something that refers to the unexpected connections that happen in life and to some of the ways he experiences anxiety and the world around him.
Sasha’s aunt shares a story of Rabbi Akiva, who learned about the power of water to carve a stone over a long period of time. She shares this story in part to remind Sasha that change takes time and patience, but it is possible, even when it seems not to be.
Some instances of bullying. More than once, a group of kids surround Sasha. One boy hits him.
Another boy tells Sasha about an encounter he had in which he saw evidence that someone had hurt a little kid. Sasha learns what really happened to a boy who is rumored to be violent.
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