A Million Shades of Gray by Cynthia Kadohata
My rating: 2 of 5 stars
It’s 1973: Y’Tin and his family live in a distant village in South Vietnam, and, for as long as he can
remember, his country has been at war with North Vietnam. While his father works as a guide for the American Special Forces, Y’Tin likes nothing more than to spend peaceful time with his beloved elephant, named Lady. In fact, he dreams of growing up and becoming one of the youngest elephant trainers ever. Yet things turn deadly when the Americans return home, leaving Y’Tin and his people vulnerable when the North Vietnamese troops invade their village.
While some villagers are able to escape into the jungle (including his family, as it turns out), Y’Tin and many others are taken prisoner by the enemy troops. However, Y’Tin and his fellow elephant-trainer friend manage to escape into the jungle. Happily, they find their escaped elephants, but the elephants aren’t their only concern, though, as they are being hunted by the North Vietnamese, trying to stay alive, and trying to catch up to the group of villagers who initially fled.
This is a thought-provoking book that strikes a delicate balance between Y’Tin’s love of his elephant and hate for the enemy troops. The reader is right there along with him as he escapes captivity and tries to stay alive in the jungle. Those who enjoyed this book might also enjoy Kadohata’s other books dealing with the grim realities of war, such as Cracker!: the Best Dog in Vietnam or Weedflower (pre-Pearl Harbor bombing).
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