Here is a summary ofThe Boy in the Striped Pajamas by John Boyne from Readinggroupguides.com:
The cautionary tale is about two boys, one the son of a commandant in Hitler’s army and the other a Jew, who come face-to-face at a barbed wire fence that separates, and eventually intertwines their lives.
Set during the Holocaust, Bruno is only nine-years-old when his father, a commandant in Hitler’s army, is transferred from Berlin to Auschwitz. The house at “Out-With,” as Bruno calls it, is small, dark, and strange. He spends long days gazing out the window of his new bedroom, where he notices people dressed in striped pajamas and rows of barracks surrounded by a barbed wire fence. Bored and lonely, and not really understanding the circumstance of his new existence, Bruno sets out to explore the area and discovers Shmuel, a very thin Jewish boy who lives on the other side of the fence. An unlikely friendship develops between the two boys, but when Bruno learns that his mother plans to take her children back to Berlin, he makes a last effort to explore the forbidden territory where the boy in the striped pajamas lives.
I will start off by saying that I loved this book! Boyne does a great job of describing some of the events from the Holocaust through the eyes of a nine year old boy. I have read a few reviews of this book by people that thought the writing was poor and lacking, but if you consider that this book was intended for a very young audience, I think it was great. This book is highly recommended for children in grades 6 to 8, but I do know that many book clubs have also tackled this book.
At nine years old, Bruno is oblivious to politics and the news around him so he is horrified to come home from school one day to find that all of his belongings have been packed away so they can move to a new home. When they arrive at their new home, which Bruno calls 'Out-With', he is quite discouraged to see that the home is so much smaller than he is accustomed to and there does not appear to be any neighboring children to play with. He is very lonely and looks forward to the day that they can return to their beautiful home in Berlin, since their stay at Out-With is only temporary.
Bruno is curious about all of the people that he can see from his bedroom window that appear to be wearing the same striped pajamas all day long. He longs to play with children and he can see that there are plenty available over there, but Bruno has a feeling that he would be in deep trouble if he were to wander that way.
Young Bruno decides one day to go out exploring and follows that fenceline for quite awhile and happens to come along a young boy sitting by the fence wearing the striped pajamas. Not only is this boy his own age, but he can finally find out what really happens over there. As they meet almost every day, they form an interesting friendship and Bruno finds that he is starting to actually forget about his life in Berlin because if he were to leave Out-With he would miss his new friend, Shmuel too much. Bruno considers their friendship odd since it is basically the only friendship he has had that consists of talking, rather than playing.
Bruno understands that his father has a very important position under the 'Fury', as soldiers are always coming and going from their home, and his fathers uniform does look nicer than any of the other soldiers. Bruno does inquire about the people on the other side of the fence a couple of times, but he can't comprehend why his father would tell him that they are not really people at all.
I don't want to reveal too much about this book, but I honestly believe that everyone should read it. If you have this book and have been meaning to read it, I suggest that you just do it. It is a very fast read and you will be done with it before you know it. I found myself so touched when I finished it, as it was a shocking and abrupt ending to me, but during the Holocaust the lives of Jewish people were abruptly interrupted on a daily basis. They did not have control over their fate in any way. It really was a heart-wrenching story, even when I think about it now.
I think that many of you know that this book has been made into a movie, which comes out on DVD next month.
My Rating: 5/5