238 of 260 people found the following review helpful
I've read many books that fall into the "Holocaust literature" category. This one may actually be a book that is written in a style that COULD be read by a child but should be read by adults. Whether it is suitable for children depends on how sensitive your child is- and how well you think he or she could handle some very graphic details. They aren't "graphic" in the sense of being spelled out in detail but the reader's imagination can fill in the blanks. At age 9, this book would have been far too intense for me - and the main character in this one, Bruno, is age 9.
The author used a technique which was brilliant, taking readers into the mind and thoughts of a child whose father work for the "Fury" (the Fuhrer) and who is sent to live in Out-With (Auschwitz), on the safe side of the fence, in an actual home.
The novel is labeled "a fable" and I think this was a wise choice by both author and publisher. After all, no one knows exactly how a 9 year old son of a German officer would think and young Bruno seems remarkably naive sometimes. But just as light sets off shadows more vividly, I think his exaggerated innocence allows readers to experience the horrors of Auschwitz that much more. For that reason, I don't think the accuracy of Bruno's character is all that important. The effect on the reader (THIS reader, anyway) is profound and deep.
After moving to Out-With (Auschitz) Bruno meets a boy "on the other side of the fence", one who is the same age, a lad named Schmuel. At first Bruno is envious of the boy who gets to wear striped pajamas all day and who seems to have lots of companions.
On Bruno's side there are few playmates and he doesn't realize that he has so much compared to Schmuel. There is a sudden twist in this tale and I can't write about that. I will say it is the one reason adults should read this book before sharing it with children.
The book isn't quite like any other of this type I've read, not even The Diary of Anne Frank. Each chapter has a simple headline (Bruno Makes a Discovery, Bruno Tells a Perfectly Reasonable Lie) that reads like something a child could write. So do the words of each chapter and I think the child's voice should speak to both the child and adult residing in readers. It certainly did for me!
You'll be haunted by this one. If you get the edition with a Reading Guide included, you will find all sorts of extra features, includng an interview with the author, John Boyne.
139 of 151 people found the following review helpful
on December 28, 2008
When I first started reading, I didn't find the simplistic writing style appealing and thought I would be glad to finish the book so I could move on to another more challenging. It wasn't long before I became engrossed in viewing the situation through the eyes and voice of the 9 yr old boy, Bruno. I did not critique what I was reading from the perspective of what a 'real' 9 yr old living in that era should or should not have known about Nazi Germany.
I decided to write this because I was disappointed by the comments of a couple of the other reviewers who were upset that the book did not include historical accuracy. I never thought I was purchasing a history book, and therefore did not expect to receive a history lesson. To me the message of the story is broader than the era it is set in. This is the tale of an unlikely friendship between two 9 yr old boys. That friendship is allowed to grow because of their innocence, and because they do not judge one another by their stations in life. It's a very powerful, moving fable. I loved it for exactly what it is.
74 of 85 people found the following review helpful
on May 2, 2008
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.)
49 of 55 people found the following review helpful
on December 18, 2005
When I picked up the book...something about the colour of the stripes, something about the hue of the colours looked familiar...in a morbid way...and I wasn't sure if I'd want to read it. What intrigued me as well though, was that within the jacket of the book, it said basically that they could not give us an idea of what the novel was about...
I understand why. There SHOULD NOT be a synopsis on this book because you'd regret reading one. If by the first two sentences in Chapter 4 (they're VERY short chapters) you don't know what the novel is about, I'd be surprised. The story that follows needs no description as you are being dragged deeper gradually, even though wondering all the while, "ermm...and so...?"
This novel is indeed about a nine-year-old boy who walks up to a fence. Boyne writes using a voice with an air of innocence that successfully works to punctuate the harsh reality of the "situation/predicament" which is, essentially, what the story is. The ending will send you rereading the last part of the book again, and perhaps again. I read this book in one sitting. Once you've finished...you will be thinking about this one for a while...
57 of 65 people found the following review helpful
on January 17, 2013
Memories of Evil: Recalling a World War II Childhood
This review was written by my husband.
A friend forwarded me a copy of this book and asked for my reaction. Here it is.
Reading some of the other many reviews that this very successful book elicited, I have come to the inescapable conclusion that many of the reviewers betray a woeful ignorance of historical facts: facts about the Holocaust in general and about concentration camps in particular.
I am writing this as one who was there -- I myself was once a boy in striped pajamas; I am a survivor of six German concentration camps. I think this makes me competent to give you the following very basic facts about these camps.
Each camp was surrounded by a barbed wire fence about 10-ft high; the fence was electrified; along its inside perimeter rose guard towers; each tower was manned by an armed guard around the clock; searchlights illuminated the fence during the night; each guard was responsible for the segment of fence within his vision; his duty was to prevent anyone from approaching the fence -- not from the inside, nor from the outside; he was under orders to shoot anyone he saw within a specific no-man's land on either side of the fence. In addition, along the outside perimeter of this no-man's-land, prominent signs proclaimed,
"STOP - Danger - High-Voltage Electricity." So that even a dense nine-year old would get the message, a skull and cross-bones were depicted above the inscription.
In my view, these basic, verifiable historic facts make the premise of "The Boy in the Striped Pajamas" untenable. This book makes a mockery of history.
116 of 144 people found the following review helpful
The subtitle of this book is `A Fable', and so I suppose we are not meant to look for too much realism in this Holocaust story. Possibly (so one review suggests) written for children, its subject matter is grim enough; but its tone, especially at the beginning, put me off: it is faux-naive and painfully arch; and there are too many unbelievable aspects of it. The central character is nine-year old Bruno. The first false note is struck when Bruno learns that `the Fury' has big things in mind for his father, who is a high-ranking member of the SS and is in fact being posted, with his family, from Berlin to become the Commandant at Auschwitz. Of course it is ludicrous that a nine-year old in Nazi Germany would have misheard - not just once but persistently - `the Fury' for the Führer or `Out-With' for Auschwitz (the puns don't work in German anyway). In 1943 a little German boy, especially one whose father was in the SS, would have been in the Pimpfen, the section of the Hitler Youth for six to ten year olds, where he would already have learnt to worship the Führer; he would have learnt the notion of the Fatherland, which in this novel seems to puzzle him; he would most likely have followed the campaigns of the German army on maps and would have known (as he doesn't) where Poland was; and he would already have become familiar, at least in the abstract, with the concept of Untermenschen - instead of which he doesn't even know what a Jew is, and, when his sister mentions the word, he asks her whether he and she were Jews! He had lived in the Commandant's house at Auschwitz for a whole year - and we are to believe that he had never heard the word!
Some parts of the book are a little more credible. A child would probably not have known what it was dangerous to say (though I have to say that, as a nine-year old myself in Nazi Germany, I did have a pretty good sense of that.) Many Germans, and especially children, would not have known of the horrors of the concentration camps and would have been as uncomprehending as Bruno was of what they saw: the ghost-like creatures on the other side of the barbed wire fence which separated the camp from the neat garden of the Commandant's house.
Bruno hates his new home. For one thing, there are no other children for him to play with. And then one day Bruno disobeys orders and goes `exploring' along the fence and at the far end and on the other side of it he meets Shmuel - the boy (of exactly the same age as Bruno) in the striped pyjamas - who is sitting there all on his own, and they meet in that spot and talk regularly thereafter for a year. Shmuel understands the difference between their situations well enough, but Bruno is impossibly naive and obtuse in picking up the meaning of what his new friend is telling him, though something tells him that he should not tell his family of these meetings. He remains innocent until the end.
Of course the heart of the author is in the right place; and he does convey the horror of the camps; but I could not suspend my disbelief in Bruno - and without that ability, the book did not work for me either as a fable or as a credible story, and so I have some reservation about this flawed way of dealing with the Holocaust.
16 of 17 people found the following review helpful
on March 24, 2014
Forget the historical inaccuracies. What I find so concerning about this book is the answers kids give you after reading it. They universally agree it's sad; when asked why, you will hear some version of, "The little German boy died in the end, and he didn't even belong there." To have even the smallest idea that the 11 million people who died in concentration camps belonged there is truly frightening.
There are too many accurate literary accounts of the Holocaust accessible for middle and high school students to justify using this book in a classroom.
16 of 17 people found the following review helpful
on December 8, 2008
As a twelve year old I found this book to be amazing , very breathtaking , and is a must read for all children interested in these terrible time . I found my self stuck to this book and could not put it down , I will with out a doubt recommend this for anybody who is thinking about reading this book !! I LOVE IT !!!!
14 of 15 people found the following review helpful
on June 26, 2014
I'm disgusted that this book has received as much positive attention as it has. As a work of historical fiction, it slaps history in the face and decides to spin a complete fantasy instead.And what's worst, this is somehow ok because it's marketed toward children. Newsflash, children are not stupid (unlike Bruno, the main character, who appears to be the least perceptive nine year old in the world.).
The author seems to have done little historical research on the topic of the Holocaust. For example, the characters use feet and miles, rather than meters and kilometers despite the fact that they live in Germany. Bruno, the main protagonist, is apparently to able to read German but cannot say Auschwitz or Fueher correctly despite being corrected multiple times and seeing it written down. Also, how is it the the children of a high ranking SS officer have zero conception of Hilter and the final solution? Bruno is not quite old enough to be in the Hilter Youth, but certainly would have heard the philosophy of Nazi Germany before in school. Somehow, the camp does not have electrified fences, there is no stench of burning flesh etc. etc. There are too many details that don't add up and make this story worthless in teaching children anything about what happened during the Holocaust. This would be fine if Boyne was writing about a fictional occurrence, but he's not.
Furthermore, reviewers have had the gall to compare this to The Diary of Anne Frank. ABSOLUTELY NOT! The Diary of Anne Frank is poignant and emotionally engaging while reflecting history. She really existed and she really died. Those are really her words. I remember reading that book when I was young, and that was the tragedy that struck me: she reflected so many of my own concerns but lived a life unthinkable to me and it made me have to try to understand, why would an entire society want to kill her? Boyne's book, on the other hand, teaches us two things: 1) Children are stupid. 2) "Of course all this happened along time ago and nothing like that could ever happen again." False. Genocide IS happening now. The real message of the Holocaust is that it can happen again. The philosophical question that the Holocaust forces us to grapple with is, how can so many seemingly well intentioned people support the mass extermination of others. We must grapple with this to understand how to avoid such a scenario in the future. Boyne takes the easy way out and tells us that, like Bruno, they probably didn't know what was happening and are thus not guilty.
Save your children from terrible literature and even worst historical travesty. Buy them Anne Frank's Diary instead and have an honest, and historically accurate, discussion of what happened. Reading this type of book only moves us backwards as a society, not forward.
23 of 27 people found the following review helpful
"The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas" is told from the viewpoint of Bruno, a 9 year old boy who moves with his parents and older sister to Auschwitz where his father is the commander. Bruno and his sister are sheltered from the realities of where they are and what goes on behind the barbed wire fence - in part by their parents and in part by naievity stemming from their privileged upbringing.
Bruno is lonely and imagines that the children behind the fence are lucky because at least they have other children to play with. He secretly befriends a little Jewish boy called Shmuel who lives within the concentration camp. They have daily conversations across the fence. As time passes, Bruno gets more curious about what life is like on the other side of the fence and why Shmuel always looks so miserable. Shmuel tries to explain how it is to Bruno, but Bruno's sheltered life has not given him any points of reference by which to understand what Shmuel is saying. Some of these conversations are painful to read as Shmuel is suffering so badly, yet Bruno is so self-absorbed and oblivious to what is happening.
I found it hard to believe that a child of Bruno's age could be so unaware of what was taking place in Nazi Germany. He seemed to have never noticed Jews wearing the Stars of David on the streets, nor even to have heard the word Jew until he hears it from Shmuel. He meets Adolf Hitler and is underwhelmed by him. Given that his father is a high-ranking official in the Nazi regime this seems unlikely and it somewhat undermined the book's credibility for me.
Nevertheless, it is an absorbing book to read. The ending is brutal. Throughout the book you know that this story cannot end happily and you are steeling yourself for various outcomes. Having said that, I didn't see the one that came and it hit me with force.
This is a quick and easy book to read, but I don't think I will forget it easily.