Monday, October 25, 2010

A MILLION SHADES OF GRAY by Cynthia Kadohata

I finished A MILLION SHADES OF GRAY today on the plane. This book has been talked about a lot since its publication and I've seen it on several Mock Newbery lists. I can so see why. It is a great read. Y'Tin lives in a village in Vietnam and is in the midst of the Vietnam War.  Y'Tin is an elephant trainer--one of the best at such a young age.  He has a special relationship with his elephant, Lady.  But war comes to their village and Y'Tin's life is changed instantly. Y'Tin and many other villagers have to go into the jungle and Y'Tin also must save his elephant and make important decisions about what is best for them.

This is a sad story. A bit hopeful at times, but an honest look at what war does to communities.  It was not one that I could read from cover to cover.  It was definitely a story of war with the horrors being made clear--not the blood and battles, but the emotions that go with war. Y'Tin is a great character, one that you love almost immediately.  Y'Tin is a character who has courage in different ways throughout the story. No decision is easy in a time of war and Y'Tin must make many decisions.

Because of the setting and the sophistication of the book, I think this would be a great book for grades 5 and up. I can think of one class I had years ago who would have loved it as a read aloud. For readers who want a deeper read, It is a great animal story, a great war story, and a great coming of age story all in one.

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