Boyne, John. (2006). The Boy in the Striped Pajamas. New York: Random House.
Textbook Chapter: 8
Subgenre: Historical Fiction/ The Holocaust
Possible Curriculum Connections: Middle school social studies integration with World War II and Holocaust Unit
The Boy in the Striped Pajamas is a novel set in Poland during World War II. The book focuses on Bruno, a nine year old boy, who has recently moved due to his dad's promotion at work. Bruno does not like moving to a new place, misses his friends, and is bored because he only has his sister, Gretel, around to play with. However, Bruno soon discovers that there are many people that live on the other side of the fence that borders his property. Bruno soon learns that the people living on the other side of the fence are in a place called "Out With" that seemed very unpleasant, and Bruno is told to never explore in that area. However, Bruno is curious and lonely, and he ventures to the fence, where he meets a young boy in striped pajamas named Shmuel. Shmuel and Bruno form a friendship from either side of the fence, and enjoy each other's company. Bruno begins to bring Shmuel food, and they tell each other about life on either side of the fence. Soon, Bruno finds out he is moving back to Berlin, and he and Shmuel make a plan to let Bruno wear a pair of striped pajamas and see what life is like on the other side of the fence. However, the novel turns tragic as the trip to the other side of the fence is not fun and games like Bruno thought it would be. The "Out-With" camp was actually Auschwitz concentration camp.
Personal Reaction/ Why Teens Would Want to Read this Book
This story is a tear jerker! I could not believe the ending when I read it! Although the protagonist in the story is a nine year old boy, the book is definitely not appropriate for a nine year old. The book is more appropriate for middle and high school students. There are many allusions to people and places from World War II that are never directly stated, and younger readers may never understand. For example, "Out With" is never directly referred to as Auschwitz, and "the Furor" is never directly referred to as Hitler. Many of the themes of the story would be lost on a younger reader, even the ending. However, I think this is a must read for a young adult who is learning about the Holocaust. The story is well written, thought provoking, and tragic. The reader gets attached to both Bruno and Shmuel, and sees the beauty in their friendship. This story is a hard one to read, but is necessary! I highly recommend this book!