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The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas
By John Boyne

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The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas

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The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas
A Fable by John Boyne
ISIS Large Print, 2006
ISBN: 0-7531-7650-5
Genre: Young Adult Fiction, World War II / Holocaust

Reviewed by Anna Dogole - November 14, 2006

The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas is a haunting and disturbing fable by John Boyne. This story is told from the viewpoint of Bruno, a nine-year-old German boy, whose life is disturbed by the vicissitudes of World War II. Born in Berlin, Bruno has a happy childhood, despite his father's being strict and standoffish and whose office is "Out Of Bounds At All Times And No Exceptions." However, Bruno's live changes abruptly when the Fury comes to dinner and makes his father Commandant of 'Out-With'. Seemingly overnight the family packs up, and along with his mother and sister Gretel, Bruno finds himself living in a stark house in the middle of nowhere. Soldiers are everywhere and many treat their new home more as an office than a family residence. More important, for Bruno, his father has a new shiny uniform and he is even more off-putting than ever.

Bruno doesn't like the new house, and doesn't understand why they had to move, nor why he had to leave his friends behind. Bruno doesn't much care for his sister, and he finds life at Out-With very lonely, as there are no other children to play with. Or so he thinks. However, looking through his bedroom window he notices that in the distance, behind a large fence, are hundreds, if not thousands of people, all wearing stripped pyjamas. Going out to explore this strange new world, Bruno meets Shmuel, a nine-year-old Jewish boy who gets to wear striped pyjamas all day, and who lives on the other side of the fence.

Bruno and Shmuel quickly develop a potent friendship, and Bruno comes to 'their' place by the fence as often as possible. The boys, each sitting on their respective sides of the fence, talk about their lives, their desires, and they try to understand what is going on around them - with little luck. I don't want to say much more about the story as I've probably already given too much of it away, but suffice it to say that Bruno and Shmuel's friendship ends tragically.

The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas is an unforgettable book. Although written for young adults, adults of all ages will find this book compelling. Those with some knowledge of the Holocaust and World War II will have no trouble identifying 'The Fury' and 'Out-With' although some readers may find these terms confusing. As such, especially with younger readers, they provide ample fodder for conversations about the Holocaust and an opportunity to explore the very different worlds that Bruno and Shmuel found themselves living in. I highly recommend this book to readers of all ages, as a fine addition to the body of Holocaust literature. As well, it is also a moving book that will make you ask yourself many hard questions, both about events in the past, and those in the present.


The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas can be purchased directly from Ulverscroft, the parent company of ISIS Large Print.


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