Thursday, June 24, 2010

A Million Shades of Gray

by Cynthia Kadohata
J Fiction
Atheneum Books 2010
216 pages

Setting: south Viet Nam, 1973

All Y'Tin wants is to take care of his villages' elephants. Lady, in particular, is his charge. He sees no purpose for school since his future is elephants. He plans on living in his peaceful village, with his father, mother, and two sisters, and being Lady's keeper and perhaps training others to take care of future elephants. But the ongoing war, which until now had stayed away from his remote village, changes his well laid plans. Y'Tin and his people must abandon their homes and hide in the jungle from the coming North Vietnamese. For the first time, Y'Tin knows fear and real uncertainty. His circumstances require him to quickly leave childhood behind and become a man.

Well researched and written, Kadohata shows us life in Viet Nam during the war after the Americans leave. Y'Tin is a strong boy character, devoted to his family. Most admirable is his relationship with his father. This story portrays a culture and language different from what we know in the United States, but A Million Shades of Gray teaches that family love, friendship, loyalty, and desire for peace are universal and that the travesties of war can destroy them all. A good read, quite interesting with descriptions and details about Vietnamese culture and beliefs. I recommend about 4th grade and up.

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