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Shades of Gray
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The Civil War has left 12-year-old Will Page an orphan, and he is sent to his mother's relatives in the country in Virginia. Prepared to hate his uncle, a ``coward'' who refused to fight for either side, Will slowly comes to respect the man's position. And as he fits into the hardworking farm routine, the boy discovers, to his surprise, that physical labor (which his parents' slaves used to do) can be rewarding. Will's coming-of-age story revolves around overcoming his prejudices about Yankees and Confederates. Thoughtfully told, the novel captures the hardships that followed the last war fought on U.S. soil. But Will's maturation feels too carefully mapped out, leaving the impression of didactic lessons learned; he seems less a real person than an example of error rectified. Ages 8-12. (Oct.)

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