Friday 2 May 2008

The Boy in the Striped Pajamas by: John Boyne

The Boy in the Striped Pajamas
John Boyne
David Fickling Books
ISBN 9780385751537

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.)


Allison said...

This book was powerful and touching. Bruno's innocence was masterful, he just could not comprehend all of what Shmuel tried to tell him. It was a great approach to such a horrific historical era and definitely one of the best books I have ever read. It left me with hope though at the ending, as sad as it was perhaps Bruno, and his family, now fully understood the consequences of their actions as a whole...

kernerle said...

Unfortunately, I can only agree with that review with reservations.
It is true that the contrast between Shmuel and Bruno is very interesting and shows how awful these times were. On the one hand, there is Bruno who doesn't realize anything of the war and on the other hand, there is Shmuel who has to suffer from everything the regime does and for whom you feel
Nevertheless, the book is definitely not one of the best books. I was very often annoyed with the main character Bruno, because I think he is much too stupid and especially much too naive. I'm sure he has to realize anything, after all, it it WAR!
Besides, the ending was very foreseeable.
As far as I'm concerned, this book shouldn't become required reading for all schools because it only touches on the topic of the National Socialism.

svenluebbert said...

i agree in most points with marvin: the only interesting part of the book is the contrast between shmuel and bruno. it´s a good idea to show the cruelty and the affects of propaganda in this way, but it is required that there are more facts and no belittlement, because of the time, which musn´t be forgotten or told as a tale. and as marvin said it is certainly not the best book i have ever read, books about the national socialsim should be based on facts, tense and gripping reading isnt required for such a topic.

svenluebbert said...

Alina Bethkes comment:
We read this book with our school class and at first I thought it would be hard to read. But then I was fascinatet by the story about Bruno and Schmuel. The ending is very touching and I can't stop reading!!!

timchrishammer said...

At first i want say that i mostly agree with the text, because i think its a very readable book and procured an better insight in the situation during the second world war for a child like Bruno.
I also support the point that you never should forget this times therewith everybody who read this book how horrible it was.
But i also disagree at some points cos i dont think that the book has a new angle because i know much other books which contains the same topics and were written in the same perspective.
One other point which "le Kernelé" above also criticize is that Bruno is to naive and I cannot understand how you never notice something during the war.
All in all it is a readable book among so much of it and i think that many pupils dont "love" it so that it shpuldnt become required reading.

regards thedevilhammer

Alina S said...

In my opinion the book is very authentic, memorable and also really shocking and touching.
I think, the system of propaganda and real life is showed really good. Also the constrast of beeing supressed and persecuted and living in a family in which the father has a very high position os made clear.
What i especially liked about the book is that even if the two boys live in so different circumstances, they have a lot in common, and they understand and like each other.
Furthermore, it´s good that every single person representes another character and opinion.For example Brunos sister Gretel is interested in the ´Führerkult´, while Bruno can´t see any attraction in those things.
All in all I think the task to give an authentic insight of how life was during the second world war.

SRMcEvoy said...

I am getting a lot of comments on this post today but no data on who you are finding it. Can someone let me know the secret? Was it an email, a website that blocks trackbacks ...

Ani8993 said...

In my opinion, the book is easy to read and to understand. Therefore it should become required reading. But on the other hand, the author doesn't really describe how brutal and horrible the Second World War was. That is actually a pity. Nevertheless, the book offers a litte insight into the war and for some pupils, it is enough information.
But I also have to mention, it is a bit odd that Bruno doesn't realize the situation around him. In my view, a nine-year-old boy should be able to understand it.

birkhärtel said...

I can go along with Sven and Marvin because I think that this book is despite its touching end not really authentic. For example: Why shouldn't a boy like Bruno haven't been told about jews or the causes of World War 2 in school? He normally should have learned something about Hitlers "Rassenfrage" there.
Besides, the camp of Auschwitz was extremly secure with high electical fences, guards evrywhere and towers all around the camp so it's not likely for Bruno to speak with a jewish boy undiscovered. In my opinion the book is interesting but quite not authentic.

Caro K. said...

In my opinion, the book is really readable, bacause of the intresting perspective how it is written. The story is authentic and interesting but I think it isn't really realistic. Bruno can't go so easy to the fence and sit there for hours because of the look-outs.
All in all I think the story gives a good sight into the life from the 'Nazi'-time.

finn said...


In my opinion the story is very authentic and it shows clearly how the propaganda in 1945 worked. Furthermore, the book is easy to read and I liked the story of Bruno and Shmuel. All in all it is an exciting and sad story with a touching ending.


sellebecker said...

When we started reading this book in our english class, my first thought was 'That's going to be very difficult!' But when I read the first chapters, I thought different. The book is easy to read and good to understand because it's from the prospective of a 9-years old boy. The language is very simple and I think the book is good for students who want to know more about the differences between the Jews and the others during the Wolrd War 2. In my opinion, the book is written well and easy to understand for everyone.

Lars N. said...

I agree with Sven. The book isn't very authentic in in each point but it shows clearly the propaganda of the nazism. Morover the book is very predictable. After the first pages I observed that Bruno's fahter is going to work at a concentration camp in Auschwitz.
All in all the book isn't as good as I thougt that it would be when I heard that we would read it in class.

Lars N. said...

Comment by Robin N. :
In my opinion the book "The Boy in the Striped Pajamas" is very good, I don't have read many books, but this one is interesting and I would be happy, when I read more books like this.I think, this book should become required reading for all schools, because it gives the reader a lot of information about the World War and the language from the book is good to understand for kids.

Svenja said...

I have to agree with the review, but with a reservation:
The author should have described the horrible situation of the directed homicide of the Jews clearer, Bruno doesn’t even realize that his friend Shmuel lives in a completely different world. He always compares his life with Shmuel’s and ignores Shmuel’s statements about how awful the camp is. In that way I think Bruno is very very selfish and isn’t able to listen to others, he also seems to be ignorant. In the end of the book he still believes that he will find cafés in the concentration camp although he should have known better after all what Shmuel has told him about his life. I think a boy in the age of Bruno would realize what kind of camp he is around. But that could be possible because he is so much isolated from the whole world: Bruno doesn’t learn anything about the World War because his parents don’t want him to know.

But nevertheless, the book is really worth reading. It is understandable and written in simple words. I also support the point that you never should forget this time and it is important that everybody is aware of what really went on so that something like that will never ever happen again!

FlorianH. said...

In my opinion the book is very authentic and exciting. Also it's easy to understand. Besides the story is very good and not unrealistic, what i liked most about the plot was the ending, because it's not a typical ending and you don't await it. Of course the ending touches me. So all in all it's a thoroughly interesting book with a sudden ending.

Etiene T. said...

In my opinion it´s a book which is well written and a good book for making clear how brutal life was in the second world war. Nevertheless the author could have written more about the Life in the "Arbeitslager" and about how they were treaten if they didn´t work how the soldiers wanted to.
The main characters, Bruno and Shmuel, grow up completely different but nevertheless they have many in common which makes the book interesting to read because then the reader sees how the frendship, also if there is a fence between them, grow.
All in all i think it is a good book which shows the situation of two different sides ( Bruno´s family and Shmuel) in the second world war.

Nadinchen said...


The book is written in an interesting perspective. Thereby the reader can quickly relate to the main character, so the story get more fascinating.
Furthermore, i agree with the others in the fact that the book is extremely well-written.
Also the story is thrilling and therefore you glued to every word.
I like the book, because it reminds us of the horrible time, we must not forget.


wiebke said...

In my opinion the boook is very easy to read and very exciting. But sometimes its unrealistic because for Bruno its very easy to do things, which he isn't allowed to, e.g. going to the fence. The ending is very sad, because Bruno and Smuel were very good friends and then they died.
All in all its a great book and everyone in school should read it once.

Caro said...

In my opinion the story was very authentic and has got a very touching ending.
It provides an good insight into the time of the 'Nationalsozialismus', was easy to read and well written.
Because it was very interesting, I can't stop reading it.

Lena K. said...

It was not very realistic that Bruno can climb under the fence even if he was small. In my opinion the book doesn't show how horrible the second World War was. It was very easy to guess what happened next. But the book was easy to read and not so difficult as I thought first.

Steven R. McEvoy said...

Glad to have been part of the class project. Thanks for choosing my site.