The Boy in the Striped Pajamas

John Boyne. Oxford Universtiy Press, 2007.

The Boy in the Striped Pajamas, is a holocaust story from a different point of view. The story is told through the eyes of Bruno, a nine year old German boy from Berlin. Bruno’s father is of high status in the German military, therefore is asked to move himself and his family near “Out-With”. From Bruno’s experience, he is taken away from his home, his friends, and his easy lifestyle to somewhere unfamiliar and odd, just because of his father’s job. He goes through the days trying to survive boredom as well as tolerating his older “know it all” sister. He looks out his bedroom window and sees small huts and thousands of people wearing the same thing, striped pajamas, and becomes jealous that all of those people have the opportunity to become friends and play with each other while he sits in his new house. Then, Bruno builds up enough courage to begin exploring.

As the story continues, the reader is involved in a new friendship that develops between Bruno and Shmuel. Bruno and Shmuel begin conversing, with a fence separating them, and a deep, unique, compassionate friendship becomes evident.

John Boyne tells a touching story from a dark and ugly time in our world’s history. Through his story he gets at issues that are still present today and even in the classroom. The matter of conformity was significantly present at the time of the Holocaust. The image of a fence is displayed in the story; however, “fences” are still present in our society today. Also, the theme of friendship is uniquely portrayed in the story. One may argue that these same themes are evident in the classroom setting and many discussions could evolve from these specific themes within the story. The Boy in the Striped Pajamas has the potential to open students’ eyes to issues that are present in their own school or community concerning conformity, friendship, and discrimination.

Recommendations for Teachers
It is often difficult for an author to write a book that can capture the minds of both children and adults. John Boyne successfully wrote "The Boy in the Striped Pajamas" to appeal to young children, young adults, and adult audiences. Many students have questions about what life was like during the time period that this novel was set in, and it does a fantastic job of answering these questions, showing what life was like on both sides of the fence.

By telling this story through the eyes of a child, Boyne has created a text that can be read by children of all ages about the Holocaust. While young children may not know all of the horrors of the Holocaust, the text allows them to ask questions through the eyes of young Bruno. Teachers would find this text as a valuable teaching tool for young students, as it is written without the language, horror scenes, and violence of many similar texts. The language is simple enough for younger students, and the plot moves fairly smoothly through Bruno's eyes.

This book would also be extremely valuable for older audiences, as many students would already possess a great deal of background knowledge and would be able to fill in the blanks of the scenes Bruno has questions about. The text is not surrounded by controversy and would be an appropriate text for all ages, middle school on up.

About John Boyne

Raised in Ireland, John Boyne began writing at an early age. He was educated at Trinity college in Dublin, he studied creative writing and spent much of his time working on short stories. His first works were short stories that he wrote mostly for his pleasure, publishing seventy of them. The Boy in the Striped Pajamas, one of Boyne's most famous novels, was accalaimed by many and went on to even win two awards. The book itself has sold more then five million copies and spent numerous weeks on the New York Times bestseller's list. Boyne has written a total of nine novels, two of which were written for a young adult audience.

When asked about The Boy in Striped Pajamas, Boyne claims that the idea for the story came to him suddenly one night and he wrote the novel quickly. He wishes that his audience would read the novel in one sitting if possible, for that is how he believes the story should be read. The book has gone on to become a movie praised by critics and audiences alike. Boyne now resides in Dublin where he continues to write novels and short stories.

Multimedia (Video or Audio)

-This is a visual of the Boy in the Striped Pajamas. It displays an
overview of Bruno's encounters, emotions and the overall situation he
must endure. A brief overview of Auschwitz as well as Bruno's reaction
to the concentration camp is also displayed.

-This visual is important because it displays the miracle of a man in
a concentration camp, just like the people that Bruno views in

Additional Resources:

The Boy in the Striped Pajamas (IMDB) - IMDB entry on the 2008 film adaptation of the novel

The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas film review - Review of the film by Tim Robey for The Telegraph author John Boyne's personal website

Author Interview- John Boyne - 2010 interview of John Boyne for the blog Wondrous Reads

John Boyne Transcript - transcript of a 2011 reading and Q&A session by John Boyne for the Dublin City Public Library system, regarding the writing of the novel

Chapter 1 - an excerpt of The Boy in the Striped Pajamas, consisting of the entirety of the novel's first chapter.

Teachers at Random- The Boy in the Striped Pajamas teacher's guide - Random House guide to teaching the novel

TES Connect UK - Additional resources for teachers by TES Connect

USHMM For Teachers: Teaching About the Holocaust - the US Holocaust Memorial Museum resource area for educators

UHSMM- Planning a Group Visit - Information on planning a group visit to the US Holocaust Memorial Museum

--Names of Reviewers (and links to your other reviews).