The Boy in the Striped Pajamas by John Boyne

June 29th, 2010 by Brian Leave a reply »

I know that this book has been out for a while but I finally had a chance to read it. It’s always on hold at school.

I just finished the book, like, five minutes ago and I’m still reeling. Most students and teachers had alluded to a sad ending, so I expected that. But the way it ended still had suspense for me.

There are a lot of books about World War II out there. Many people are trying to make sense of what happened to so many families. Some think that it was a clear cut-good versus evil with the Axis and the Allies and want the excitement you see in Medal of Honor video games. The Boy in the Striped Pajamas has no action scenes whatsoever but I’m willing to bet that once Bruno meets Shmuel, you will be hooked.

Because the issues are so complex it is beautiful that Boyne chose a nine year-old boy as the person to follow. His mispronounciations of key people and places in the Holocaust let the reader know where he’s at but clue us in to his naivete. You’ll probably figure out what he’s talking about early on, but a great scene is when Shmuel draws the symbol he was forced to wear, the Star of David, and Bruno draws the swastika from his dad’s uniform. They talk frankly about which symbol is better and wonder why they’re different.

Saying anything more about the plot will ruin the innocent exploration of a horrible concentration camp. Go read the book, plain and simple.

What I will challenge you to do is research modern day holocausts. Check out Darfur. Look at Rwanda. Get to know Bosnia-Herzegovina.

And then do something.

Arizona has an influx of refugees from war-torn parts of the world. Like Boyne says in his author’s note, there will always be fences like what separated Bruno and Shmuel. I hope that the students I interact with will tear down those fences and not build them up.


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