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But Bruno longs to be an explorer and decides that there must be more to this desolate new place than meets the eye. While exploring his new environment, he meets another boy whose life and circumstances are very different to his own, and their meeting results in a friendship that has devastating consequences.
Gr 9 & Up - John Boyne's novel (David Fickling books, 2006) is a harrowing Holocaust story with an excruciating ending. It is told through the eyes of nine-year-old Bruno, whose family moves from Berlin after his father gets a promotion to Commandant. When the family arrives at their new home, Bruno is disheartened. The new place, which the boy calls "Out-With," is desolate, with a large "camp" on the other side of a big fence, behind which all of the people, except the soldiers, wear gray-striped pajamas. After starting classes with a tutor, who advocates history over art, Bruno explores his new surroundings and meets Shmuel who is living in the fenced-in area. Bruno never quite grasps why his new friend is behind the fence, but he knows that he should keep quiet about their visits. Only mature listeners with knowledge of World War II and Hitler's "final solution" will be able to interpret what the author unveils slowly (there is no mention of a war going on or the ability to get news from the radio or newspapers). Still, the novel will certainly augment the study of this period in history. There is the added bonus of an interview with the author and his editor at the end of the recording. With the eager urgency and excitement of the young protagonist, Michael Maloney reads with a British accent, using various voices for the many characters. Sometimes he drops the ends of words, which can be distracting. Haunting music between chapters adds to the suspense. A unique addition to Holocaust literature.-Jo-Ann Carhart, East Islip Public Library, NYCopyright 2007 Reed Business Information
"A memorable and moving story." -The Oxford Times (U.K.)
"A small wonder of a book." -The Guardian (U.K.)
"A book so simple, so seemingly effortless, that it's almost perfect." -The Irish Independent
"An extraordinary book." -The Irish Examiner
'What are you doing?' he asked in as polite a tone as he could muster, for although he wasn't happy to come home and find someone going through his possessions, his mother had always told him that he was to treat Maria respectfully and not just imitate the way Father spoke to her. 'You take your hands off my things.'
Maria shook her head and pointed towards the staircase behind him, where Bruno's mother had just appeared. She was a tall woman with long red hair that she bundled into a sort of net behind her head, and she was twisting her hands together nervously as if there was something she didn't want to have to say or something she didn't want to have to believe.
'Mother,' said Bruno, marching towards her, 'what's going on? Why is Maria going through my things?'
'She's packing them,' explained Mother.
'Packing them?' he asked, runningquickly through the events of the previous few days to consider whether he'd been particularly naughty or had used those words out loud that he wasn't allowed to use and was being sent away because of it. He couldn't think of anything though. In fact over the last few days he had behaved in a perfectly decent manner to everyone and couldn't remember causing any chaos at all. 'Why?' he asked then. 'What have I done?'
Mother had walked into her own bedroom by then but Lars, the butler, was in there, packing her things too. She sighed and threw her hands in the air in frustration before march-ing back to the staircase, followed by Bruno, who wasn't going to let the matter drop without an explanation.
'Mother,' he insisted. 'What's going on? Are we moving?'
'Come downstairs with me,' said Mother, leading the way towards the large dining room where the Fury had been to dinner the week before. 'We'll talk down there.'
Bruno ran downstairs and even passed her out on the staircase so that he was waiting in the dining room when she arrived. He looked at her without saying anything for a moment and thought to himself that she couldn't have applied her make-up correctly that morning because the rims of her eyes were more red than usual, like his own after he'd been causing chaos and got into trouble and ended up crying.
'Now, you don't have to worry, Bruno,' said Mother, sitting down in the chair where the beautiful blonde woman who had come to dinner with the Fury had sat and waved at him when Father closed the doors. 'In fact if anything it's going to be a great adventure.'
'What is?' he asked. 'Am I being sent away?'
'No, not just you,' she said, looking as if she might smile for a moment but thinking better of it. 'We all are. Your father and I, Gretel and you. All four of us.'
Bruno thought about this and frowned. He wasn't particularly bothered if Gretel was being sent away because she was a Hopeless Case and caused nothing but trouble for him. But it seemed a little unfair that they all had to go with her.
'But where?' he asked. 'Where are we going exactly? Why can't we stay here?'
'Your father's job,' explained Mother. 'You know how important it is, don't you?'
'Yes, of course,' said Bruno, nodding his head, because there were always so many visitors to the house -- men in fantastic uniforms, women with typewriters that he had to keep his mucky hands off -- and they were always very polite to Father and told each other that he was a man to watch and that the Fury had big things in mind for him.
'Well, sometimes when someone is very important,' continued Mother, 'the man who employs him asks him to go somewhere else because there's a very special job that needs doing there.'
'What kind of job?' asked Bruno, because if he was honest with himself -- which he always tried to be -- he wasn't entirely sure what job Father did.
In school they had talked about their fathers one day and Karl had said that his father was a greengrocer, which Bruno knew to be true because he ran the greengrocer's shop in the centre of town. And Daniel had said that his father was a teacher, which Bruno knew to be true because he taught the big boys who it was always wise to steer clear of. And Martin had said that his father was a chef, which Bruno knew to be true because he sometimes collected Martin from school and when he did he always wore a white smock and a tartan apron, as if he'd just stepped out of his kitchen.
But when they asked Bruno what his father did he opened his mouth to tell them, then realized that he didn't know himself. All he could say was that his father was a man to watch and that the Fury had big things in mind for him. Oh, and that he had a fantastic uniform too.
'It's a very important job,' said Mother, hesitating for a moment. 'A job that needs a very special man to do it. You can understand that, can't you?'
'And we all have to go too?' asked Bruno.
'Of course we do,' said Mother. 'You wouldn't want Father to go to his new job on his own and be lonely there, would you?'
'I suppose not,' said Bruno.
'Father would miss us all terribly if we weren't with him,' she added.
'Who would he miss the most?' asked Bruno. 'Me or Gretel?'
'He would miss you both equally,' said Mother, for she was a great believer in not play-ing favourites, which Bruno respected, especially since he knew that he was her favourite really.
'But what about our house?' asked Bruno. 'Who's going to take care of it while we're gone?'
Mother sighed and looked around the room as if she might never see it again. It was a very beautiful house and had five floors in total, if you included the basement, where Cook made all the food and Maria and Lars sat at the table argu-ing with each other and calling each other names that you weren't supposed to use. And if you added in the little room at the top of the house with the slanted windows where Bruno could see right across Berlin if he stood up on his tiptoes and held on to the frame tightly.
'We have to close up the house for now,' said Mother. 'But we'll come back to it someday.'
'And what about Cook?' asked Bruno. 'And Lars? And Maria? Are they not going to live in it?'
'They're coming with us,' explained Mother. 'But that's enough questions for now. Maybe you should go upstairs and help Maria with your packing.'
Bruno stood up from the seat but didn't go anywhere. There were just a few more questions he needed to put to her before he could allow the matter to be settled.
'And how far away is it?' he asked. 'The new job, I mean. Is it further than a mile away?'
'Oh my,' said Mother with a laugh, although it was a strange kind of laugh because she didn't look happy and turned away from Bruno as if she didn't want him to see her face. 'Yes, Bruno,' she said. 'It's more than a mile away. Quite a lot more than that, in fact.'
Bruno's eyes opened wide and his mouth made the shape of an O. He felt his arms stretching out at his sides like they did whenever something surprised him. 'You don't mean we're leaving Berlin?' he asked, gasping for air as he got the words out.
'I'm afraid so,' said Mother, nodding her head sadly. 'Your father's job is-'
'But what about school?' said Bruno, inter-rupting her, a thing he knew he was not supposed to do but which he felt he would be forgiven for on this occasion. 'And what about Karl and Daniel and Martin? How will they know where I am when we want to do things together?'
'You'll have to say goodbye to your friends for the time being,' said Mother. 'Although I'm sure you'll see them again in time. And don't interrupt your mother when she's talking, please,' she added, for although this was strange and unpleasant news, there was certainly no need for Bruno to break the rules of politeness which he had been taught.
'Say goodbye to them?' he asked, staring at her in surprise. 'Say goodbye to them?' he repeated, spluttering out the words as if his mouth was full of biscuits that he'd munched into tiny pieces but not actually swallowed yet. 'Say goodbye to Karl and Daniel and Martin?' he continued, his voice coming dangerously close to shouting, which was not allowed indoors. 'But they're my three best friends for life!'
'Oh, you'll make other friends,' said Mother, waving her hand in the air dismissively, as if the making of a boy's three best friends for life was an easy thing.
'But we had plans,' he protested.
'Plans?' asked Mother, raising an eyebrow. 'What sort of plans?'
'Well, that would be telling,' said Bruno, who could not reveal the exact nature of the plans -- which included causing a lot of chaos, especially in a few weeks' time when school finished for the summer holidays and they didn't have to spend all their time just making plans but could actually put them into effect instead.
'I'm sorry, Bruno,' said Mother, 'but your plans are just going to have to wait. We don't have a choice in this.'
'Bruno, that's enough,' she said, snapping at him now and standing up to show him that she was serious when she said that was enough. 'Honestly, only last week you were complaining about how much things have changed here recently.'
'Well, I don't like the way we have to turn all the lights off at night now,' he admitted.
'Everyone has to do that,' said Mother. 'It keeps us safe. And who knows, maybe we'll be in less danger if we move away. Now, I need you to go upstairs and help Maria with your packing. We don't have as much time to prepare as I would have liked, thanks to some people.'
Bruno nodded and walked away sadly, know-ing that 'some people' was a grown-up's word for 'Father' and one that he wasn't supposed to use himself.
He made his way up the stairs slowly, holding on to the banister with one hand, and wondered whether the new house in the new place where the new job was would have as fine a banister to slide down as this one did. For the banister in this house stretched from the very top floor -- just outside the little room where, if he stood on his tiptoes and held on to the frame of the window tightly, he could see right across Berlin -- to the ground floor, just in front of the two enormous oak doors. And Bruno liked nothing better than to get on board the banister at the top floor and slide his way through the house, making whooshing sounds as he went.
Down from the top floor to the next one, where Mother and Father's room was, and the large bathroom, and where he wasn't supposed to be in any case.
Down to the next floor, where his own room was, and Gretel's room too, and the smaller bath-room which he was supposed to use more often than he really did.
Down to the ground floor, where you fell off the end of the banister and had to land flat on your two feet or it was five points against you and you had to start all over again.
The banister was the best thing about this house -- that and the fact that Grandfather and Grandmother lived so near by -- and when he thought about that it made him wonder whether they were coming to the new job too and he presumed that they were because they could hardly be left behind. No one needed Gretel much because she was a Hopeless Case -- it would be a lot easier if she stayed to look after the house -- but Grandfather and Grandmother? Well, that was an entirely different matter.
Bruno went up the stairs slowly towards his room, but before going inside he looked back down towards the ground floor and saw Mother entering Father's office, which faced the dining room -- and was Out Of Bounds At All Times And No Exceptions -- and he heard her speaking loudly to him until Father spoke louder than Mother could and that put a stop to their conversation. Then the door of the office closed and Bruno couldn't hear any more so he thought it would be a good idea if he went back to his room and took over the packing from Maria, because otherwise she might pull all his belongings out of the wardrobe without any care or consideration, even the things he'd hidden at the back that belonged to him and were nobody else's business.
Excerpted from The Boy in the Striped Pajamas by John Boyne Copyright © 2006 by John Boyne. Excerpted by permission.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
1. Discuss the relationship between Bruno and Gretel. Why does Bruno seem younger than nine? In a traditional fable, characters are usually one-sided. How might Bruno and Gretel be considered one-dimensional?
2. At age 12, Gretel is the proper age for membership in the League of Young Girls, a branch of Hitler’s Youth Organization. Why do you think she is not a member, especially since her father is a high-ranking officer in Hitler's army?
3. What is it about the house at Out-With that makes Bruno feel “cold and unsafe”? How is this feeling perpetuated as he encounters people like Pavel, Maria, Lt. Kotler, and Shmuel?
4. Describe his reaction when he first sees the people in the striped pajamas. What does Gretel mean when she says, “Something about the way [Bruno] was watching made her feel suddenly nervous”? (p. 28) How does this statement foreshadow Bruno’s ultimate demise?
5. Bruno asks his father about the people outside their house at Auschwitz. His father answers, “They’re not people at all Bruno.” (p. 53) Discuss the horror of this attitude. How does his father’s statement make Bruno more curious about Out-With?
6. Explain what Bruno’s mother means when she says, “We don’t have the luxury of thinking.” (p. 13) Identify scenes from the novel that Bruno’s mother isn’t happy about their life at Out-With. Debate whether she is unhappy being away from Berlin, or whether she is angry about her husband’s position. How does Bruno’s grandmother react to her son’s military role?
7. When Bruno and his family board the train for Auschwitz, he notices an over-crowded train headed in the same direction. How does he later make the connection between Shmuel and that train? How are both trains symbolic of each boy’s final journey?
8. Bruno issues a protest about leaving Berlin. His father responds, “Do you think that I would have made such a success of my life if I hadn’t learned when to argue and when to keep my mouth shut and follow orders?” (p. 49) What question might Bruno’s father ask at the end of the novel?
9. A pun is most often seen as humorous. But, in this novel the narrator uses dark or solemn puns like Out-With and Fury to convey certain meanings. Bruno is simply mispronouncing the real words, but the author is clearly asking the reader to consider a double meaning to these words. Discuss the use of this wordplay as a literary device. What is the narrator trying to convey to the reader? How do these words further communicate the horror of the situation?
10. When Bruno dresses in the filthy striped pajamas, he remembers something his grandmother once said. “You wear the right outfit and you feel like the person you’re pretending to be.” (p, 205) How is this true for Bruno? What about his father? What does this statement contribute to the overall meaning of the story?
11. Discuss the moral or message of the novel. What new insights and understandings does John Boyne want the reader to gain from reading this story?
12. Discuss the differences in a fable, an allegory, and a proverb. How might this story fit into each genre?
This book The Boy in the Striped Pajamas, is one the most touching,inspirational and heart warming book I have read! When you are finished with the book the story of Shmuel and Bruno will always be with you. I recommend this book to anyone!. But be prepared, make sure you have a box of kleenex with you, it sure will bring on the waterworks :]
80 out of 86 people found this review helpful.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted February 15, 2009
The book is written from a perspective that's hard to write from. Seeing the Holocaust through the eyes of a child is a view I haven't seen before. Boyne captures this perspective very well. The ending was very rushed. It was all summed up in about two pages. That's the only thing bad about this book. If you're looking for a book to start a discussion in a classroom or inspire writers to write outside of the box, then this is your book.
33 out of 40 people found this review helpful.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted November 19, 2008
EVEN IN LIFE'S MOST DARKNESS DAYS THERE IS LIGHT FOR BEAUTY ESPECIALLY <BR/>IN THESE TWO YOUNG PEOPLE. ALTHOUGH, BOTH ON OPPOSITE ENDS OF THE FENCE<BR/>THEY SHARED NAVIETEE, INNOCENCE AND FRIENDSHIP. BY THEM WALKING INTO <BR/>THE DARKNESS HOLDING HANDS AND REASSURING EACH OTHER THAT EVERYTHING WILL<BR/>BE ALRIGHT SHOWS HOPE FOR HUMANITY. HOPEFULLY, THIS EVILNESS WILL NEVER<BR/>RESURFACE, UNFORTUNATELY, IT STILL SHOWS ITS FACE IN THESE TRYING TIMES. <BR/>PEOPLE EVERYWHERE SHOULD READ THIS BOOK AND THINK ABOUT THE CONSEQUENCES OF DEGRADING OTHERS IN NAMES, WORDS AND ACTIONS. WE SHOULD TAKE A LESSON FROM THESE TWO BEAUTIFUL YOUNG PEOPLE, IT MAYBE WORTH IT. I THANK THE AUTHOR FOR WRITING SUCH A GIFTED BOOK AND HOPE THERE WILL BE OTHERS.
30 out of 43 people found this review helpful.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
I finished this book yesterday and all I can say: It is very touching. This has a story you won't forget easily. Had to cry a lot.
23 out of 29 people found this review helpful.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted January 2, 2012
Its a heartbreaking story about a boy named Bruno and his new found friend Shmuel. This book will keep your atention the intire time you are reading it. Stop reading reveiws and just read the book!
20 out of 23 people found this review helpful.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted December 24, 2011
I could not put this book down. I have read the criticism for this book, that a Commandant's son could not be so naive, but I disagree. Children are some of thr purest souls living. They have to be taught hate and Bruno although was given explanations, was not. I almost cried at thr end! Good easy read that touches parts of the imagination most of us seldom use anymore.
18 out of 20 people found this review helpful.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted March 11, 2009
I Also Recommend:
The boy in the Striped Pajamas is definitely a touching read that I will not forget. Its writing style makes the book open to the audience whether it be adults or young teenagers.
The book gives us a story from the point of view of an innocent 9 year old child, the son of a Nazi commander, who meets Shmuel, a 9 year old jewish child. Neither of these boys have been corrupted by the society that surrounds them and their innocence gives the novel more access to the reader's heart.
Although the information about the Holocaust may not be the most accurate, this book is made to touch the reader, not give the reader a lesson. The book does manage to give the reader an idea of how cruel and brutal the holocaust really was.
This book grabs and tangles up in you and wont let you go until you have finished reading, and gives you the perfect example of how simple and sweet children can be. Children who have not yet been corrupted by society and simply live without judging others, accepting and sharing with everyone, this novel shares their feelings with us and opens the mind of the innocent for us to read.
The ending of the book did make me feel quite queazy and I admit, I felt like putting the book away and never looking at it again. But the book taught me too much to put it away.
The power of this book will touch all readers and forever more be engraved in their hearts.
18 out of 25 people found this review helpful.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted December 11, 2008
This story touched my heart. Little Shmuel grew on you and so did Bruno. I had to read this for a book report and it broke my heart but it is an absolutely amazing book that I will never forget ! Read it, because I know you won't forget it. Its so innocent because the main character is only 9 and he doesn't fully understand the situation which is kinda sad though. Its a great book :]
17 out of 19 people found this review helpful.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
I can't say enough about this book; the writing is just amazing, the characters feel so real and the situation incredible. Even though the book goes from the present to the past, to learn the back story, you will have no problem following the story. You can't help but feel for Bruno--at times, you wish you were by his side to tell him what he should do. And not to ruin the end, but it was an ending I just didn't see coming. John Boyne has written a memoriable novel that should be shared with everyone you know!
14 out of 18 people found this review helpful.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
This story is told completely from the point-of-view of a 9 year-old boy, who appears to be rather slow, even for his age. Although this method lends some authenticity to the narrative, it inhibits the forming of characterizations and depth of emotion. This 9 year-old boy simply doesn't understand enough about what is going on at "Out-With" and is too egocentric (as all children of his age) to provide much more than a bare-bones description of events. I also found myself not liking the narrator very much. The parable itself is very good but the narrator is simply too clueless to provide the reader much insight into the characters: they present as very one-dimensional. He also describes some scenes in such simplistic terms I am not really sure what happened. Readers need to know their Holocaust history because the narrator never actually explains anything (he doesn't know) so it would be impossibly confusing otherwise. I don't mean to say that it's not worth reading, but it doesn't stand alone as Holocaust fiction. It really needs to be taken in context with other Holocaust fiction and historical accounts.
11 out of 25 people found this review helpful.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted November 5, 2006
Do you read books recall the title and yet forget exactly what the book was about. This won't happen with The BOY IN THE STRIPED PAJAMAS.It is for adults as well as teeneagers and a book that lingers in your mind long after reading it. It is simply written but 'Oh MY' !
9 out of 11 people found this review helpful.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted February 12, 2009
After first seeing this movie, I had to read the story. It was truly a heart-breaking tale of two young and children caught up in a horrible situation that ended too tragicly. While the movie really showed what happened to the two boys, the book left it completely out and really did not explain realistically what happened to them. Was there a reason for this? I wonder if the author did this on purpose or did the film-maker put that in for the movie audience. It certainly was a shocking end and left me totally wiped out and in tears. But it was a wonderfully written book and one that should be read by a lot of people.
8 out of 10 people found this review helpful.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
this book really pulled at my heart strings, and ibelieve that everyone should read it. my 6th grade step-brother still doesnt know what the holocaust is and i am going to try to get him to read it. it was a great read and what really got me was the realism and attitude of Bruno and Shmul. it is a beautiful story and i am happy that i read it.
6 out of 9 people found this review helpful.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted February 26, 2009
The Boy in the Striped Pajamas
By Lizzy Mahoney
Bruno is a 9 - year - old boy who has a comfy life in Berlin. He has a maid, a butler, and a cook. Bruno doesn't know what it's like to have nothing. But that changes when his family moves to Auschwitz. In The boy in the striped pajamas, John Boyne writes this compelling story about Bruno.
When Bruno is forced to move away from his enormous house with his family, his life will change forever. Besides moving in to a smaller house with no "nooks and cranes" to explore, besides having no one to play with except for his older sister, he is surrounded by soldiers that go in and out of his father's office.Bruno misses his friends, his grandparents, and everything else in Berlin. And he doesn't understand what's going on around him. He hates everything about "Out-With" and is very lonely until he meets the boy on the other side of the fence.
A powerful story with emotions and pajamas. It takes some time for Bruno to realize what is happening but it all comes together like the pieces of a puzzle. This story will keep readers thinking about what really happened during the Holocaust. The boy in the striped pajamas is Newberry quality.
6 out of 9 people found this review helpful.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted December 29, 2011
Posted October 18, 2011
This book supports the idea that ordinary people were unaware of the horrors of the Nazis' mass extermination of Jews. It states that the son of the Commander of Auschwitz didn't know what a Jew was or if he was one himslef. It tells an absurd fairly tale that the main character sneaks out of Auschwitz but goes back. It portrays Auschwitz more as a summer camp than a death camp. If you are looking for historical fiction read "The Book Thief".
5 out of 12 people found this review helpful.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted July 25, 2011
Posted October 10, 2006
This book takes a story we all know and gives it a fresh look. The writing is well done and easy to read. Extremely poignant story with a sad and tragic ending. I will reccommend this to my middle school children and to many, many others.
5 out of 8 people found this review helpful.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted February 22, 2012
This book puts the Holocaust in two inocent boys points of view. This book is sad yet it shows us love and hope. You better read this book!!!
4 out of 5 people found this review helpful.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted February 19, 2012