A Million Shades of Gray

by Cynthia Kadohata

Y’Tin dreams of growing up to become the most celebrated elephant trainer Vietnam... read more

Y’Tin dreams of growing up to become the most celebrated elephant trainer Vietnam has ever seen. One of his clan’s elephant caretakers, he would spend all his time with Lady if he could. Then the North Vietnamese invade his village, seeking revenge against Rhade like Y’Tin’s father who collaborated with the Americans during the war. Separated from his family in the chaos and terror that follow, Y’Tin and Lady eventually join two other boys and their elephants, hoping to find other survivors from their village. Y’Tin and his parents often disagreed, but his thoughtful father always eventually arrived at an answer to the questions that faced them. Now, Y’Tin consciously longs for his childhood as he faces momentous decisions that will determine both his and Lady’s fate on his own. Although the narrative gets a bit bogged down initially explaining setting and context, Cynthia Kadohata’s novel set in Vietnam in 1973 features wonderfully realized characters and a vivid sense of place, while relationships—between Y’Tin and his family, Y’Tin and the other boys, and especially Y’Tin and Lady—are a compelling force in the story. An author’s note provides additional information on time, place, and politics of this story about a “Dega” (or Montagnard) boy. (Age 11 and older)

© Cooperative Children's Book Center, Univ. of Wisconsin - Madison, 2011

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