The Gray by Chris Baron

Happy Wednesday! I'm thrilled Chris Baron returned to Watch. Connect. Read. to discuss Celia Krampien’s cover illustration and Rich Deas’s cover design for The Gray, anxiety, Sasha, poetry, and more. I wrote the words in purple, and Chris wrote the words in black. Thank you, Chris! 

Celia Krampien’s cover illustration and Rich Deas’s cover design for The Gray is stunning and so beautifully captures the heart of the book, the tension of the main character, and the beautifully wild and mysterious setting of the story. I also LOVE seeing the horse there—which is integral to the book!

The Gray tells the story of some unique kids, Ivy, Eli, and especially 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-including an abandoned camp--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?

Sasha is learning to cope with his anxiety. He is, like so many of us, drawn into an overuse and reliance on technology that seems to exacerbate his struggles, but through friendship, family, and returning to nature, he begins to find growth and healing.

There is a a dynamic mix of story elements in this book…an abandoned Camp that might be haunted, a mysterious “Gray '' that seems to be everywhere, powerful horses, and a sweeping setting that takes Sasha from the heart of the city to the wildness of the unexplored countryside.

John Schu, you should have asked me whether this book is in verse like my previous novels! It’s actually in prose! (even if much of it was actually written in verse during the early stages of the writing process). You also should have asked me for some fun facts–one of which is that lots of elements of my own Jewish family life are threaded through the story, including the summer I went to Camp Shalom and discovered an abandoned, haunted camp, just across the lake!

Thank you, Chris! Congratulations! 

Chris Baron is the award winning author of Novels for Children including the novels in verse, ALL OF ME, an NCTE Notable Book, and THE MAGICAL IMPERFECT a Sydney Taylor Book Award Notable Book/ a SLJ Best Book of 2021 & the forthcoming novels, THE GRAYWORLD(2023) FOREST HEART(2024) all from Feiwel & Friends/Macmillan. He's a contributor to the Young Adult Anthology, EVERY BODY SHINES, (2021) from Bloomsbury, and the author of Lantern Tree: (poetry), (2012) from CityWorks Press, winner of San Diego Book Award. He is a Professor of English at San Diego City College and the director of the Writing Center. He grew up in New York City, but he completed his MFA in Poetry in 1998 at SDSU. HE lives in San Diego with his family.

Look for The Gray on June 13, 2023. 

A middle-grade novel about a boy spending the summer in the country to help deal with his anxiety.

Sasha has had a tough middle-school year—he’s been bullied, and his anxiety is increasing. Sasha’s dad tells him to “toughen up,” and he does, with unfortunate, hurtful results. His parents and therapist agree that a summer in the country with his aunt is the best medicine, but the house reminds him of his beloved uncle, who died two years before.

His aunt is supportive, and there are some potential new friends, but still, Sasha’s anxiety, which he calls the Gray, is ever-present. When he is matched at a local ranch with a horse coincidentally named The Gray, he feels a kindred spirit, even though riding scares him. But what is scarier is when one of his new friends disappears. Will Sasha be brave enough to face the truth about himself and his new friends?


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