The Boy in the Striped Pajamas
David Fickling Books
Books about the Holocaust are never easy to read. Some are downright terrifying and some make the reader nauseous. This book however approaches this period in history from a new and interesting angle and tells a tale of what might have happened, and in doing so opens up these stories to a whole new generation of readers. The book was originally marketed as a children's book, and then remarketed as adult fiction because of the content. The author claims it is just a book, and soon it will be a major motion picture due out in the fall of 2008.
This is the story of two boys who lose everything they hold dear, yet the reality of their loss is completely different. Bruno's life is changed when his father is given a new job and they move from their five-story home in Berlin to a new home in the country that is only three stories tall. He has lost his 3 best friends in life, and his home with the banister and the attic window that looks out over all of Berlin. His new bedroom window looks over small huts in a fenced-in area where everyone wears striped pajamas. One day while being rebellious and doing what he should never do, he walks along the fence and meets a boy with whom he shares a birthday. Shmuel and Bruno meet most days and sit on the opposite sides of the fence and talk. As their friendship grows Bruno's youthful innocence is challenged.
The novel is told in the third person narrative, but told from a nine-year- old's perspective. Though the reader knows that the story takes place at Auschwitz, Bruno cannot pronounce it, and misunderstood the name from the beginning. Yet in not naming the place the author leaves the story as a much broader tale.
This book is extremely well-written; it takes the reader to a place and time we should never forget, and it reminds us of the human element in all stories. John Boyne has written a book that could become required reading for all school children, and maybe all adults should read it also, lest we forget. So pick it up and walk with Bruno and Shmuel as they develop a growing friendship just sitting and talking through a barbed- wire-topped chain link fence.
(First Published in Imprint 2008-05-02.)