A Million Shades of Gray

A Million Shades of Gray

For Ages: 10 - 14
  • reading group guide
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A boy and his elephant escape into the jungle when the Viet Cong attack his village immediately after the Vietnam war.
  • Atheneum Books for Young Readers | 
  • 224 pages | 
  • ISBN 9781416998594 | 
  • January 2010 | 
  • Grades 5 - 9 | 
  • Lexile 700
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Chapter One

1973, Central Highlands, South Vietnam

Y’Tin Eban watched Tomas fasten the rope around Lady’s neck. Lady was the smallest of the village’s three elephants, but she was also the strongest, so she was much in demand as a worker. Today Lady would be dragging logs for the Buonya clan. The Buonyas’ house had caught fire and they were building a new one.

Y’Tin stood just in back and to the side of Tomas. Sometimes Tomas got annoyed at how closely Y’Tin stood, but Y’Tin didn’t want to miss anything. On the other hand, Y’Tin didn’t want to annoy... see more
Chapter Two

Before sunup, Y’Tin woke to hear his mother shaking his father awake. “Sergeant Shepard wants to talk to you,” she told him in a low voice.

“What?” Ama said sleepily. Y’Tin heard his father rustling, probably sitting up.

“Sergeant Shepard,” his mother repeated.

Y’Tin sat up too. “Are you going on a mission, Ama?” he asked.

“I don’t know,” his father said. “I’ll find out from Shepard. You go back to sleep.”

Instead, Y’Tin stood up. “Can I come if you go on a mission?... see more

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Reading Group Guide

DISCUSSION QUESTIONS

Discuss Y’Tin’s attitude toward school. Why is his mother so determined that he complete his education? Cite evidence that Y’Tin is willing to learn in spite of his rebellion against school. When the North Vietnamese become a threat to the Rhade tribe, Y’Tin’s family is forced to leave the village. Explain why Y’Tin suddenly wants to go to school when he no longer has to.

Y’Tin spends a lot of time daydreaming and thinking. He explains the difference to his mother: “Daydreaming is thinking about things that aren’t true yet. Thinking is when you ponder matters that are already true.” What “truth” does Y’Tin ponder the most? Which “truth” hurts the most? Debate whether Y’Tin’s daydreams come true. Discuss Lady’s role in helping Y’Tin realize his dream.

Y’Tin says that next to his father, Tomas is the man that he most admires. What is it about Tomas that Y’Tin admires? What causes Tomas to turn on Y’Tin? How does this change Y’Tin’s admiration for Tomas? When do Tomas and Y’Juen become “we,” casting Y’Tin aside? Y’Tin’s father has always told him that the jungle changes a man. Debate whether it’s the jungle that changes Tomas and Y’Juen or something else.

Y’Tin thinks a lot about betrayal. Debate whether the Rhade feel betrayed b see more

Behind the Book

About the Author

Cynthia Kadohata
Photo Credit:

Cynthia Kadohata

Cynthia Kadohata is the author of the Newbery Medal–winning book Kira-Kira, the National Book Award winner The Thing About Luck, 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 lives with her son and dog in West Covina, California.

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