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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
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?
Posted October 4, 2010
Nazi Germany as seen through the eyes of a nine year old boy. I had already seen the movie, but thoroughly enjoyed the book. It is very simplistically written, but that would be the story told through the thought of a young child. Since I was born in 1934 and lived in UK in WW11, I had empathy with Bruno. It is a book you do not want to put down, has a sad haunting ending. This would be a good book for young teen agers as well as adults.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted March 22, 2010
This was a really easy read without losing any momentum. The dialect that Boyne used was not only appropriate for the character development, but it also allowed me to connect better with the perspective. A very enveloping story that really squeezed my emotions, both good and bad.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted April 1, 2008
the boy in the striped pyjamas is a book about a young boy. at the beginning you read from the boys perspective but later on it just keeps on changing from bruno to the author. i have read it and was very dissapointed. not only was the literature bad but it was too childish for a 9 'later 10 & 11' year old. the ending was rushed the middle was pointless and the beginning wasn't even captivating. overall the book was a big waste of time & the the writer who suggested that it was like harry potter well... john boyne is no-where near as brilliant and genius as j.k. rowling. he has tried to make a good book but failed. john boyne has lost all respect by me because he has shown disrespect to all those millions of people who actually were in the holocaust. very unnecesary
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Posted October 25, 2008
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