A Million Shades of Gray

Section 1: Chapters 1 – 3

  1. Debris: scattered pieces of waste or remains
  2. Gingerly: in a careful or cautious manner
  3. Idly: with no particular purpose, reason or foundation
  4. Longhouse: a large communal house in parts of Malaysia and Indonesia
  5. Torrent: a strong and fast moving stream of water or other liquid
  6. Vague: thinking or communicating in an unfocused or imprecise way
Comprehension Questions
  1. At the age of 14, Tomas Knul was the youngest elephant handler ever in the village. (pg. 1)
  2. Even though Lady was the smallest elephant in the village she was in demand as a worker because she was the strongest of the three elephants. (pg. 1)
  3. Y’Tin knew as well as anything that he would spend his life as an elephant handler. (pg. 5)
  4. Y’Tin belongs to the Rhade tribe, which is one of the biggest Dega tribes in Vietnam. (pg. 15)
  5. Y’Tin is one of the only elephant handlers who does not use a stick with a hook on the end to communicate with his elephant. (pg. 21)
  6. Moi means savage and it is what the Vietnamese called Y’Tin’s people. (pg. 23)
  7. The last soldiers left Vietnam in 1973. (pg. 25)
  8. A drawing of an elephant decorated the green, red, and white flag of Y’Tin’s people. (pg. 28)
  9. Americans called a little rain a storm and a storm a torrent. (pg. 33)
  10. Monsieur Thorat called the treaty that ended American involvement in the war, The 1973 Agreement on Ending the War and Restoring Peace in Vietnam. (pg. 34)
  11. The only people who treated the Dega as equals were the Americans. (pg. 37)
  12. Y’Ting felt that he was the second smartest student in school. (pg. 39 )
  13. Next to his father, Y’Ting most admired Thomas. (pg. 42)
  14. People said that Y’Ting liked elephants better than people. (pg. 46)

Section 2: Chapters 4 – 6

  1. Docile: ready to accept control or instruction; submissive
  2. Frugal: sparing or economical with regard to food or money
  3. Steely: resembling steel in color, brightness, or strength
  4. Somberly: to be gloomy or sober in mood
  5. Subservient: prepared to obey others unquestioningly
  6. Trek: a long arduous journey, especially one made on foot
Comprehension Questions
  1. Men eat with chopsticks and women eat with their hands. (pg. 51)
  2. Just as the heart is the center of the home, Y’Tin believes that the trunk is the center of the elephant. (pg. 55)
  3. Sometimes Y’Tin’s parents sleep outside with the crops to catch the vermin that might eat the vulnerable crops. (pg. 56)
  4. A reeducation camp is place where the North Vietnamese would put prisoners to strip them of their identities and teach them to be good communists. (pg. 60)
  5. Like the mtu (stars) that come out at night so the war came. It was barely seen at first, but then it took over the country. (pg. 64)
  6. For the first time in his life Y’Tin regrets that Lady was captured and domesticated, because he fears that she will not be able to survive in the wild. (pg. 67)
  7. The boys of the village call the chieftain by the nickname, Monsieur Loud. (pg. 72)
  8. Y’Tin could tell that the shouting was coming from the North Vietnamese because of their accents. (pg. 80)
  9. The longhouse that the soldiers used as a jail was the Buonya longhouse. (pg. 82)
  10. Y’Tin knows that his voice changing is bad because it might draw attention to him and the soldiers will no longer see him as a boy. (pg. 84)
  11. When Y’Tin realizes that his family isn’t in the village it could mean that they either escaped or that they are dead. (pg. 87)
  12. Y’Tin believes there is no doubt that Y’Elur is turning into a spy. (pg. 90)
  13. Joseph says that you can’t use logic to understand war. (pg. 92)
  14. Y’Tin supposes that the shaman knew he was still awake because it is his job to know everything. (pg. 94)

Section 3: Chapters 7 – 9

  1. Culprit: a person who is responsible for a crime or other misdeed
  2. Duplicity: deceitfulness; double-dealing
  3. Futile: incapable of producing any useful result
  4. Ominous: giving the impression that something bad or unpleasant is going to happen
  5. Ravenous: extremely hungry
  6. Vertigo: a sensation of whirling and loss of balance, associated particularly with looking down from a great height
Comprehension Questions
  1. Y’Tin realizes that the soldiers were trying to end the Rhade’s story and they were bored with the ending. Also the thought of whether the Rhade lived or died bored them. (pg. 95, 96)
  2. The American Special Forces spoke in calm, measured tones. (pg. 99)
  3. FULRO is the United Front for the Liberation of Oppressed Races and their goal is the independence of the Dega tribes and a separate nation for them in the highlands. (pg. 100)
  4. If he dies, Y’Tin hopes that Tomas will keep his word and take care of Lady. (pg. 103)
  5. Y’Tin thinks that the wind blowing the flames sounds like the wind rippling the blanket that his mother hung on their clothes line. (pg. 109)
  6. The prints that are almost circular belong the elephant, Geng. (pg. 113)
  7. Y’Tin and Y’Juen made a point of not talking unless it was utterly necessary. (pg. 113)
  8. Both Shepard and Y’Tin’s father told him that it was important to use intuition in war. (pg. 129)
  9. Y’Tin thought that Lady sometimes pulled down trees just to see him scramble out of the way. (pg. 129)
  10. Lying on the mossy jungle without cover made Y’Tin feel completely alone for the first time. (pg. 131)
  11. The sun kicks Y’Tin’s sense of direction in so that they could set off. (pg. 132)
  12. Y’Tin’s father spent a lot of time separating right from wrong in his mind before he acted. He did this before joining the Americans. (pg. 142)
  13. When Y’Juan insulted Y’Tin’s father he felt that was unforgivable. (pg. 144)
  14. Y’Tin knew that if Tomas were a good tracker he would make a circular search. (pg. 148)

Section 4: Chapters 10 – 14

  1. Adage: a proverb or short statement expressing a general truth
  2. Foliage: plant leaves
  3. Plateau: an area of relatively flat ground
  4. Primly: stiffly formal or respectful; feeling or showing disapproval of anything regard as Improper
  5. Quibbling: argue or raise objections about a trivial matter
  6. Scenario: a written outline of a movie, novel, or stage work giving details of the plot and individual scenes
Comprehension Questions
  1. Y’Tin always feels safe on Lady’s back. (pg. 155)
  2. The elephant’s only predator is humans. (pg. 156)
  3. The Boys for Independence organization is based on the men’s FULRO. (pg. 159)
  4. When Y’Tin and his father run to meet each other they collide, embrace, and Ama whirls Y’Tin around. (pg. 168)
  5. Shepard always called a ding nam a flute. (pg. 173)
  6. Since Y’Tin is new to manhood he would not feel right asking his mother to sing for him. (pg. 184)
  7. Y’Tin is a natural candidate to go search for Y’Juen because he was such a good tracker and everyone thought that he and Y’Juen were best friends. (pg. 187)
  8. Y’Juen’s footprints are easy to recognize because the sole of one of his shoes has a hole. (pg. 191)
  9. Y’Tin feels thoroughly incompetent when instead of lowering Y’Juen to the ground gently he drops him with a thump. (pg. 194)
  10. War is far more tiring than daily life. (pg. 196)
  11. Without Y’Juen on his shoulders, Y’Tin feels free and light. (pg. 197)
  12. Y’Tin’s father had taught him that bucks marked their territory by rubbing trees with their antlers and clearing the ground of leaves. (pg. 203)
  13. When Lady’s baby opened her mother to trumpet a squeaky noise came out instead. (pg. 208)
  14. Tomas believed that elephants lived longer if you stroked them as they ate. (pg. 212)