A Million Shades of Gray
By Cynthia Kadohata
(Atheneum Books for Young Readers, Paperback, 9781442429192, 240pp.)
Publication Date: November 1, 2011
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Y'Tin is brave.
No one in his village denies that—his mother may wish that he’d spend more time on school work than on elephant training, but still she knows that it takes a great deal of courage and calm to deal with elephants the way that Y'Tin does. He is almost the best trainer in the village—and, at twelve-years old, he’s certainly the youngest. Maybe he’ll even open up his own school some day to teach other Montagnards how to train wild elephants? That was the plan anyway—back before American troops pulled out of the Vietnam War, back before his village became occupied by Viet Cong forces seeking revenge, back before Y'Tin watched his life change in a million terrible ways.
Now, his bravery is truly put to the test: he can stay in his village, held captive by the Viet Cong or he can risk his life (and save his elephant’s) by fleeing into the jungle. The Montagnards know their surroundings well. After all, this is why Y'Tin’s village had become loyal US allies during the war, having been tapped by Special Forces for their tracking skills and familiarity with the jungle. But that also means that Y'Tin knows how unsafe it can be—and how much danger he is in if he chooses to head out with no destination in mind.
At once heartbreaking and full of hope, Newbery Medal-winning author Cynthia Kadohata’s exploration into the depth of the jungle and the not-so-distant past brings us close to a world few people know about—and none will ever forget. Y'Tin’s story is one of lasting friendships, desperate choices and all that we lose when we are forced to change.
Cynthia Kadohata is the author of the Newbery Medal-winning book Kira-Kira, the Jane Addams Peace Award and Pen USA Award winner Weedflower, Cracker!, Outside Beauty, A Million Shades of Gray, and several critically acclaimed adult novels, including The Floating World. She has published numerous short stories in such literary journals as the New Yorker, Ploughshares, Grand Street, and the Mississippi Review. She lives with her son and dog in West Covina, California.