The Boy in the Striped Pajamas by John Boyne

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Nine-year-old Bruno loves his life and his house in Berlin, Germany. With five stories, if you include the basement, there are plenty of areas to explore. He also likes having adventures with his three best friends, Karl, Daniel, and Martin. So when he learns they are moving to a different house, Bruno becomes devastated, especially after he sees the new house is nothing like their old house. With only three floors, it doesn’t have anywhere to explore and is in the middle of nowhere. The only interesting thing about it is the fence enclosing a camp of people all wearing striped pajamas.

One day, while exploring outside his new home, Bruno meets a young boy who is on the other side of the fence named Schmuel. The two instantly become friends, and Bruno continues to go back every day to see him. Disheartened that they can only talk through the fence and not play together, Bruno gets his opportunity to crawl under the fence the night before he’s supposed to return to his house in Berlin. With his head recently shaved to get rid of lice, Bruno looks exactly like Schmuel. Securing him a pair of the striped pajamas, Bruno joins Schmuel in a search for his father, who disappeared after going on a march with several other men behind the fence. But will they be able to find evidence of where Schmuel’s father disappeared to before Bruno has to leave for good?

I’ve had this book on my ‘to read’ list for the longest time. Stories of the Holocaust really interest me, and I like to read as many as I can, whether they are autobiographies or fictional. What I loved the most about The Boy in the Striped Pajamas was that it came from the point of view of an innocent child who doesn’t know what is going on. I think it gave an interesting perspective and easily shows just how evil people can be.

Although the story is obviously a fictional work on the Holocaust with a flawed plot, I think it is an important read, especially for children. While children should be taught the real horrors of the Holocaust, I think The Boy in the Striped Pajamas could be a good opening to the lesson and could lead to great discussions about what Bruno sees vs. what’s really happening.

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