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A Million Shades of Gray Hardcover – 5 Jan 2010


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* Newbery Medalist Kadohata (Kira-Kira) shows that truth has as many shades of gray as an elephant in this emotionally taut survival story, set in war-torn South Vietnam. After American troops leave his village, Y'Tin, his family, and his neighbors are left to fend off their enemies themselves. But Y'Tin's mind isn't on war. It's on his pet elephant, Lady, and his dreams of opening an elephant-training school. His hopes vanish when North Vietnamese soldiers devastate his small village (Y'Tin helps dig a mass grave at one point). Y'Tin manages to escape into the jungle with a friend, where he reunites with Lady, but separated from family and friends, his thoughts grow dark. As the days go by, he becomes angrier and less trusting, wondering "if he would ever feel safe again or if safety was gone from his life forever." Illustrating the wisdom of Y'Tin's father's words--"The jungle changes a man"--Kadohata delves deep into the soul of her protagonist while making a faraway place and the s --This text refers to the Audio CD edition.

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Amazon.com: 18 reviews
11 of 13 people found the following review helpful
Not enjoyable, so-so writing, lot of potential but missed the mark 1 Mar. 2010
By HeatherHH - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
This is the story of a young teenage boy name T'Yin who is the youngest elephant trainer in his village in the Vietnam jungle. American troops have withdrawn from the Vietnam War, and T'Yin's village, from which many of the men helped the American Special Forces, is now vulnerable to attack from the North Vietnamese. T'Yin ends up fleeing into the jungle with his elephant, and has to decide whether to stay and resist or establish a new life elsewhere.

This book had a lot of potential, but unfortunately, I did not find it to be very engaging. I enjoyed the first 30 pages of this book, introducing T'Yin and his elephant, Lady, but it was downhill from there. The elephant became rather peripheral to the storyline, there, but not very important, and I think that would be one of the main appeals for many readers. Lady also didn't really come to life and didn't seem to have much personality to her.

I felt the story, as short as it is, just seemed to drag on, and the writing was so dry and matter-of-fact and held me at a distance. T'Yin was held captive, and running through the jungle, and bickering with older boys, and making major life decisions, and I cared more about getting through the book than about what happened to his character. I also felt the writing was a bit abrupt at times. T'Yin has an exceedingly convenient reunion with his elephant; she appears unexpectedly out of nowhere at a key moment. And, the ending of the story seemed rather abrupt to me. All of a sudden, T'Yin comes to his monumental decision and has his strong feeling of security in what the future holds (for no apparent reason), and the book is over.

Finally, I also didn't like the fact that T'Yin sees the soul of a dead young man twice, and not in a dream sequence or anything like that, but in broad daylight matter-of-factly like it really happened.

I think a book for young people aimed at this time period from the side of the Vietnamese is a wonderful idea, but I do not feel this book lived up to its potential. It's main fault is that it does not do well drawing the reader in and the reader ends up at an emotional remove.
7 of 8 people found the following review helpful
Powerful 11 July 2010
By J.Prather - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover
This is the powerful story of Y'Tin, a 13 year old boy living in the mountain regions of Vietnam and what happens to him following the American withdrawal. The story is told by Y'Tin, and the author has achieved a stunningly authentic voice for him. We see his fear, his courage, and his sometimes childish, sometimes wise thoughts about war, his family, and his beloved elephant. His devotion to his elephant runs throughout the story, and his faith in his future with her despite the horrific things happening around him is beautiful and sad in it's child-like naivete.

This is a sometimes graphic, brutal story that is best suited for middle school and above. The images of a mass grave and ruthless murder as seen through the eyes of a child are vividly portrayed. Y'Tin's struggle with the realization that the American's were not coming back to help his village was hard for me to read. This is a part of the Vietnam story that I had conveniently forgotten about, so I am very glad that the author is helping to keep it alive for the next generation. I hope teachers latch on to this book as I truly think it could be very effective while teaching about the Vietnam war period.

Other reviewers have commented on the child like writing style as being a draw back to the book's appeal to teens. I feel that any teen who picks this up will be drawn in by it. The style of writing is an integral part of Y'Tin's character and helps to serve as a counterpoint to the horrific events of the book. My congratulations to the author for once again producing such an important novel that will have lasting impact. A solid choice for teens age 12 and up, as well as any adult fan of historical fiction. The author's end notes add much to the story and will only serve to open up even more discussion.
7 of 8 people found the following review helpful
Kadohata...vividly brings immediacy to a conflict that too many people have forgotten about or never really knew 1 Feb. 2010
By KidsReads - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover
For many Americans, no matter their age, the Vietnam War has receded into distant memory or even the realm of myth. Outside of the iconic Vietnam Veterans Memorial and dwindling accounts in films and books, this 1960s and '70s-era war has been subsumed by more recent conflicts.

Even for Americans who remember the war, their knowledge of it probably ceases at the point when the U.S. troops withdrew from what seemed an increasingly hopeless and unpopular situation. But what happened to the South Vietnamese people who were left behind when the Americans withdrew to cut their own losses? Cynthia Kadohata explores this devastating question in A MILLION SHADES OF GRAY.

Thirteen-year-old Y'Tin has one passion: elephants. Y'Tin is an expert elephant trainer, the youngest handler in his village. He is not so enthusiastic about school, though --- he would rather spend his energies training his beloved elephant, Lady, with whom he has a close, intuitive relationship, without the violence and mistrust that characterizes some other handlers' treatment of their animals. Y'Tin's goal is to open his own school someday --- an elephant training school, that is, the first of its kind in Vietnam.

But history might have its own plans for Y'Tin. His Dega tribe has long had a relationship with the American troops fighting the North Vietnamese --- many men like Y'Tin's own father have assisted the American Special Forces in exchange for a promise that the Americans will always defend the Dega if the North Vietnamese break their treaty agreement and attack these mountain-dwelling South Vietnamese people.

In the wake of the American withdrawal, however, the U.S. troops seem to have forgotten about their promise to the Dega. And when the North Vietnamese attack Y'Tin's home, nearly half of the villagers are killed, and many others --- including Y'Tin --- are captured, forced to perform manual labor (including digging mass graves) at penalty of death.

In Cynthia Kadohata's well-researched coming-of-age story, Y'Tin matures from an impetuous boy into a less trusting, more cautious, but still goal-oriented young man. At the end of the novel, his future is not quite what he had imagined, but he is still able to find hope despite the horrific things he has seen and done. Kadohata pulls no punches in her depiction of war. In her compassionate portrayal of Y'Tin and his people, she vividly brings immediacy to a conflict that too many people have forgotten about or never really knew.

--- Reviewed by Norah Piehl
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
A Million Shades of Grey 19 May 2011
A Kid's Review - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover
A Million Shades of Grey is a great book which is weird coming from a person who normally reads Harry Potter type of books. It's about a boy and his elephant in the middle of a war. I probably like it because it has lots of action and drama. The humor in the book is JuJubee who is the boy's younger sister (who at one point shoves her hand up his nose. This book is good for people who like hearing about other people's lives and also for people who like war-type suspense.
4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
Rated R 15 April 2010
By P. Gould - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
Don't let your kids read this book on their own.

If I'm not mistaken, they've recently added the "Grades 6 to 9" to the description of this book. That was a great move because I started to read the book out loud with my third and fourth graders. They loved the main character--his love of his elephant, his relationship with his siblings, and how he got into trouble at school. However, we stopped reading it together after I read ahead and found the upcoming violent scenes. I finished reading the book on my own and am very glad I didn't read anymore to them.

It was far, far too graphically violent for kids any younger than 6th grade and, of course, genocide isn't appropriate for a younger audience. Actually, I found the book pretty troubling as an adult: screams of rape victims in the night, digging up a human ear, a scull being crushed in plain sight and so on. If it was a movie, it would be rated R for violence.

Having taught middle school, I am not convinced the book would work for that audience either for several reasons. First, the reading level, the elephant topic, the main characters age and the sentence structure all seemed slightly childish. And, depending on the middle schooler, the subject matter is still going to be very difficult to process emotionally. However, if they had an adult to discuss it with...maybe.

The best part of the book, I thought, was the child's relationship with the elephant, which was beautifully described and very touching.
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