When Bruno returns home from school one day, he discovers that his belongings are being packed in crates. His father has received a promotion and the family must move from their home to a new house far far away, where there is no one to play with and nothing to do. A tall fence running alongside stretches as far as the eye can see and cuts him off from the strange people he can see in the distance.
But Bruno longs to be an explorer and decides that there must be more to this desolate new place than meets the eye. While exploring his new environment, he meets another boy whose life and circumstances are very different to his own, and their meeting results in a friendship that has devastating consequences.
The Boy In The Striped Pajamas is presented as a fable, flagging to the reader up front that one is expected to disengage ones normal sense of reality and accept the story as given, but in this instance, when dealing with such an emotive, well recorded and historically recent subject as the Holocaust, this is difficult to do. Everything hinges on the reader accepting Bruno's overwhelming naivety at face value. Is it really credible that nine-year-old Bruno, who lives and goes to school in Berlin and is the son of a senior SS officer, is oblivious to the war, and doesn't know who Hitler is, or what a Jew is - but in other respects is both observant and intelligent?
When his family arrive at Aushwitz, Bruno and his 12-year-old-sister are conveniently the only children in the vicinity, other than those on the other side of the fence. This again stretches credibility because historical records show that about 6,000 SS officers were posted at Auschwitz, so it seems extremely unlikely that other children would not have been around. Then there is the issue of how Bruno could possibly have talked with his friend on the other side of the fence for months without being seen, or ever comprehending that Shmuel is starving (he absentmindedly brings him food from time to time but usually ends up eating most of it on the way). Not to mention the inconvenient detail that by 1942 most young children arriving at the camps were gassed on arrival.
On the other hand, Boyne hits a few powerful notes - such as Bruno's father's response to his question about the people inside the fence - "they're not people at all Bruno"; and his mother's comment that "we don't have the luxury of thinking".
As a fable, this is a powerful tale, and if you can read it as such all well and good (I can't); but as a vehicle for explaining the defining tragedy of the 20th century to young people it falls embarrassingly short. (Reviewed by BookBrowse Review Team).
Gr 7-10: The story builds to a horrifying climax, the innocent's experience brings home the unimaginable horror.
Maloney's soft-toned narration and chipper, believably childlike characterization of Bruno dramatically bring home the fable-like qualities of Boyne's moving text. Ages 12-up
Certain to provoke controversy and difficult to see as a book for children, who could easily miss the painful point. Ages 12-14.
School Library Journal - Susan Scheps
Starred Review. While only hinting at violence, blind hatred, and deplorable conditions, Boyne has included pointed examples of bullying and fearfulness. His combination of strong characterization and simple, honest narrative make this powerful and memorable tale a unique addition to Holocaust literature for those who already have some knowledge of Hitlers Final Solution. Ages 12+.
The Observer (UK)
Certain to be one of the publishing sensations of 2006.
The Oxford Times
A memorable and moving story.
The Guardian (UK) The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas is a small wonder of a book. Bruno's education is conducted slowly, through a series of fleeting social encounters rather than by plunging him into a nightmare landscape. A scraped knee, an attack of nits, a slammed door - these are the moments through which he is led to a deeper knowledge of the world beyond the wire fence.
The Age - Ed Wright
After some initial tonal clunkiness where you can almost detect the author thinking "how do I write a child", the story is an effortless read that puts you directly into Bruno's worldview. It is elegant story-telling with emotional impact and an ending that in true fairytale style is grotesquely clever.
The Irish Independent
A book so simple, so seemingly effortless, that it's almost perfect.
Recent Reader Reviews
Rated of 5
by shayna The boy in the striped pajamas This book was amazing I think that I would recommend this book to a person who likes to hear people's survival stories. I would say you would want to be a little older like 13 to understand this book. Sometimes there's some words and things that I... Read More
Rated of 5
by SashaLouLou The Boy In The striped Pyjamas Well, the movie is just as good as the book, but the book puts it in sections and helps build more tension because if your like me I don't read a book in one night it will be finished with in about 2 weeks. So by reading the book it makes you want... Read More
Rated of 5
by rebecca Amazing The book was great, and it was very touching. The book taught me to never hate someone that is different than you, you should always try to be friends.
Rated of 5
by skye Educative The Boy In The Striped Pyjamas is such an educative book. This novel opened my eyes to history, it showed me just how innocent Jews were. Every young person should read this book!!!! I had to write a review on the novel and there was no critisism... Read More
Rated of 5
by jessica the boy in the striped pajamas This book is one of the best I've ever read. it touched my heart as I'm sure it did to many many more. :)
Rated of 5
by Ellie Review This book brought a tear to my eye, as I think this book can be emotional in places, I would recommend this book to people who like adventure stories...Keep reading !
Auschwitz was the name the Germans
used for the Polish city of Oswiecim
when they occupied it in WWII. The
concentration camp was established
nearby in June 1940, taking the name of
the nearby town. The camp quickly
expanded into three main parts:
Auschwitz I, Auschwitz II-Birkenau, and
Auschwitz III-Monowitz - a group of
about 40 sub-camps. In 1942, when the
mass exterminations began, the camps
(the largest complex of extermination
camps in the Reich) became the site of
the greatest mass murder in the history
of humanity, with the majority of the
arrivals being gassed on arrival in the
Birkenau gas chambers.
Between 1.1 to 1.6 million people were
killed there, about 90% were Jews, plus
many Poles, Soviet prisoners-of-war and
"You must understand that I did not become a resistance fighter, a smuggler of Jews, a defier of the SS and the Nazis all at once. One's first steps are always small: I had begun by hiding food under a fence." An amazing, courageous, uplifting autobiography about a brave teenager who was not afraid to get involved.
Winner of the 1990 Newbery Medal. Lois Lowry fictionalizes a true-story account of the evacuation of Jews from Nazi-held Denmark to save them from being detained and then sent to the death camps.
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